President Jacob Zuma has said the African National Congress (ANC) is ready for its first female leader, days after outgoing African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was named by the ANC Women's League (ANCWL) as its choice to succeed him.
"It is no longer a discussion in the ANC whether a woman can take a high leadership position or not," Zuma told an interviewer on an South African Broadcasting Corporation radio station.
"The ANC is ready for that, in fact the party has been ready for some time.
"It will depend on the integrity that she possesses and whether members see her fit for the position."
Dlamini-Zuma, 67, has not declared her candidacy, but the ANCWL last weekend gave her a major boost by publicly declaring its support.
She is not seeking a second mandate at the AU, a move that has increased speculation that she has ambitions to succeed Zuma.
Zuma is expected to step down as ANC leader at the end of this year. His successor will be the party's presidential candidate for the 2019 national elections.
He also stated that he will not be seeking a third term.
Among Zuma's other possible successors are Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize.
It is believed that Speaker in the National Assembly Baleka Mbete also has presidential ambitions. ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe last year said there were as many as six candidates who had put their hands up for the top post.