ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has slammed the “sick” number of candidates vying to be the organisation’s president.

Mantashe was delivering a memorial lecture on the longest-serving president of the ANC, Oliver Reginald Tambo and the Zero Hour operation organised by the Umkhonto we Sizwe military veterans (MKMVA) Kwa-Thema branch in Ekurhuleni on Friday.

This week, ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize nailed his colours to the mast when he said he was ready to accept nominations from branches who wanted him to be next party president.

Mkhize joined Cyril Ramaphosa, Jeff Radebe, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Lindiwe Sisulu, Baleka Mbete and Mathews Phosa in the quest to be the ANC’s leader.

Mantashe said the increasing number of candidates making themselves available to be ANC president ahead of the organisation’s December conference was unacceptable.

“You cannot have a situation in the African National Congress that after all these sacrifices that we have eight presidential candidates. The last time we had this many candidates was in 1952. There were ten candidates. We cannot have that in 2017. Eight candidates and all of them want to be president is sick,” said Mantashe.

Mantashe’s comment was met with cheers and applause from the crowd.

Mantashe also took a swipe at Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe after he accused him of “stupidly” attacking Nelson Mandela’s legacy.

READ MORE: Mkhize works at being No 1

“Zimbabwe should be very thankful to us. They are in a crisis. President Mugabe cannot insult us because we need not research his crisis, we see it everyday in the streets. He must not insult Mandela’s legacy”, said Mantashe.