Cele's home region of eThekwini did not nominate him to serve on the national executive committee (NEC) at its regional general council (RGC) at the weekend.
"No one mentioned his name. He is no longer popular because there is evidence that he is campaigning against Zuma," said a leader, who asked not to be named.
But Cele has publicly denied campaigning to remove Zuma.
Cele said yesterday he had no problem with the RGC decision. "That's fine. If they didn't [nominate me] it's their right. What must I do?"
After Cele's dismissal from his government post there was talk that KwaZulu-Natal was going to lobby other provinces to accommodate him in the NEC. But after being dropped by a region he once led as chairman other regions in the province are also expected to dump him.
eThekwini regional secretary Bheki Ntshangase denied there was ever any discussion to accommodate Cele. He did not deny that Cele's omission from the list could be linked to rumours that he was opposed to Zuma.
"ANC members are not stupid. They listen [to what is said in the media] and decide as branch members. Who are we to reverse their decisions?"