The two main proponents of the "unity" campaign, President Jacob Zuma and Mpumalanga ANC chairman David Mabuza, have yet to explain how, practically, they want the race to play out.
Speaking at a post-NEC media briefing, secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said there was no candidate called "unity" on the ballot paper and the "unity" vote "falls flat".
"We now have to convert 'unity' into names of human beings," he said.
Zuma and Mabuza are using their positions to push for an arranged outcome, although they each have a different agenda.
Zuma wants Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to be president, or deputy president as a fall-back position. Mabuza wants to be deputy president himself. Their agendas collide if Ramaphosa wins, unless the conference decides to have two deputy presidents.