DEPUTY President Kgalema Motlanthe says he is happy to take direction from those he leads, even if this takes him full circle and he is nominated and loses out at Mangaung. If that happens he could even find himself teaching those at the beginning of their political careers in the Congress of South African Students (Cosas).

He gives a quick response when asked if he has ever contemplated professional life after the ANC — a not-too-distant possibility after the campaign to see him at the party’s helm suffered a setback during provincial nomination conferences last week.

The ANC’s largest provinces, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, nominated President Jacob Zuma to return as leader when the party holds its electoral conference this month in Mangaung.

This could leave Mr Motlanthe out in the cold. His name has been dropped as deputy leader on Mr Zuma’s ticket and replaced with businessman Cyril Ramaphosa.

"I know exactly what I will do. I will go and work with the Congress of South African Students, " Mr Motlanthe said in an interview on Friday.

Political education is close to his heart and he believes he could make a "wonderful contribution" to that body. "By belonging to Cosas and being active in Cosas, (students) carry the burden of ensuring they perform better than all other students who are not in Cosas. If there are activists in Cosas and they do poorly academically, then they would be cited as examples as to why others should not be in Cosas," he said.

Expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema cut his political teeth in Cosas. The student body has also voiced its preference for Mr Zuma to lead the ANC.

Mr Motlanthe said he was "privileged" to be asked to lead the ANC by some if its branches.

Briefly the president of South Africa when Thabo Mbeki was recalled, Mr Motlanthe scoffed at suggestions of harbouring presidential ambitions at the ANC’s previous national electoral conference in Polokwane, where he joked that he would prefer to assist in coaching Bafana Bafana. At the time he was quoted as saying his trademark goatee had steadily turned grey during his time in the ANC.

Mr Motlanthe’s name has been at the centre of the campaign for change in the party, but he refuses to be drawn, saying the branches should decide on their leaders. If not chosen, he has opted for educating Cosas over coaching soccer this time around.

"(Gordon) Igesund has the (Bafana Bafana coach) post now. I can be his talent scout and go watch matches in rural areas."