President Jacob Zuma has met with all seven African National Congress (ANC) presidential hopefuls ahead of the party's fiercely contested December elective conference.
Zuma met with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize, party chairperson and Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete and National Executive Committee members Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Lindiwe Sisulu, Jeff Radebe and former treasurer-general Mathews Phosa on Thursday.
In a video released after the meeting, Zuma confirms that he is stepping down as ANC president, dispelling earlier media reports that he might be considering a third term.
He refers to himself as "outgoing president".
Zuma said he asked for a dinner with the seven presidential hopefuls because he was "concerned" about the upcoming conference, following intense campaigning and scenes at previous conferences.
Some of the ANC's provincial elective conferences have turned violent.
"I was worried about the conference - which is being looked at seriously not just by ANC but also by the world. The ANC is one of the big organisations in the world, whatever it does people look at it," Zuma said.
In a Facebook post, presidential aide Lakela Kaunda posted pictures of the presidential hopefuls laughing with each other and shaking hands during the dinner.
She wrote that the candidates "committed themselves to promoting unity and comradeship in the preparations for during and after the national conference in the interest of building a stronger and united and more cohesive ANC".
She said more meetings would be held with the seven, including with provincial leaders, as part of ensuring a successful conference.
The ANC is holding its conference from the 16 to 20 December at the Nasrec Expo Centre, south of Johannesburg.
It has seen the highest number of leaders contesting for the top post to replace Zuma.
The conference comes at a time when the party is also plagued by deep divisions.