By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A senior official in South Africa's ruling ANC said on Wednesday the party must act against those involved in corruption, and that the issue was damaging its image.
Zweli Mkhize, seen as a potential candidate to replace President Jacob Zuma as African National Congress head at a party conference in December, made the remarks at a mining conference in Johannesburg.
Mining executives, bankers and investors have all expressed growing concern about governance in Africa's most industrialized economy.
Zuma, who must step down after a general election in 2019, is the focus of numerous corruption allegations, making the issue a touchstone for those keen to rid the ANC of his influence.
Many of the allegations are linked to a slew of leaked emails, which Reuters has not independently verified, that point to the Gupta family, business friends of Zuma's, using their influence to secure lucrative state contracts for their companies.
Zuma and the Guptas have consistently denied allegations of wrongdoing.
"As a party, we should act on those who are involved ... Those emails have come with a lot of revelations," Mkhize, a straight-talking medical doctor, told the conference.
Zuma is also under pressure to establish a commission of inquiry based on a report released last year by an anti-graft watchdog into allegations that brothers Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta swayed the appointment of ministers.
"If there is a proper judicial commission of inquiry, we should be able to put this issue to rest. This is one of the major issues inside the ANC," said Mkhize, a member of the ANC's 'Top Six' leadership group.
Mkhize said the graft allegations around the Guptas - widely referred to in South Africa as "state capture" - were a concern to the ANC because of their "effect on the image of the organization".
"We do not have something that indicates that the ANC itself is captured," he told Reuters.
Mkhize told the mining executives that the ANC was concerned about tensions between the industry and the mining ministry. The sides are locked in a bitter legal battle over revisions to an industry charter, which include raising the level of shares that blacks should own in mining companies.
Mkhize has said he is "available" to be a candidate for the presidency if ANC branches choose him. Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the conference, he said it was too early to gauge his level of support.
The frontrunners are former cabinet minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma's ex-wife and preferred successor, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has also spoken out strongly against corruption.
Analysts have said Mkhize, who hails from Kwa-Zulu Natal, Zuma's home province, could emerge as a compromise candidate.
(Editing by Kevin Liffey)