The African National Congress (ANC) should deal decisively with members who lobby for the ruling party's top posts, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi said in Durban on Sunday.
"We are saying deal with the fellows who start the [contestation] debate for the [ANC's national] conference which is far away," he told delegates attending a shop stewards' council.
It was recently reported that the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) campaigned for its former president Fikile Mbalula to replace current ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe in 2012.
Without mentioning the ANCYL, Vavi said that there were people who thought they would launch a election campaign during the ANC's national general council held in Durban last month.
"They left with broken hearts because their attempts to strengthen political paralysis failed. The national general council marked a decisive approach to dealing with ill discipline," he said.
Early leadership contestation would shift focus away from the ANC's programmes and priorities, which included improving education, fighting poverty and improving health care.
The ANC's national general council resolution forbade lobbying for leadership positions.
Speaking during the national general council, ANC president Jacob Zuma said that his party would deal decisively with ill-disciplined members.
Vavi said that he did not understand why people talked of replacing certain leaders before their performance had been assessed.
"They are now talking about the generation mix. This whole thing has many inconstancies," he said, responding to a call by the ANCYL for a mix of young and old in top ANC positions.
"The national general council resolved that candidates be assessed in relation to what contribution they will make, instead of representing a generation."
ANCYL leader Julius Malema, who was recently found guilty of bringing the ANC into disrepute with public statements he made, last week urged the ruling party to take action against Vavi over his remarks.
Vavi told an affiliate gathering on Monday that should "tenderpreneurs" succeed in making corruption acceptable in society, the country would slip into a "predator state" controlled by "political hyenas".
According to the ANC disciplinary committee ruling, Malema could find his membership suspended if he said anything in the next two years, which would bring the party into disrepute.