Zwelinzima Vavi (centre) at the founding congress of SAFTU.

Johannesburg - Zwelinzima Vavi is likely to be elected the general secretary of the new Labour federation South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), says National Union of Metalworkers SA (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim. 

Vavi is the former general secretary of Cosatu and was supported by Numsa as he faced expulsion from Cosatu in 2015. 

He was later expelled, along with the country's biggest union Numsa. 

Vavi is the steering committee chair for SAFTU and has done massive groundwork which according Jim, makes him a likely candidate to be the federation's general secretary. 

"Zwelimzima Vavi is likely to the general secretary as he done lots of groundwork and has been working with us to do this work," said Jim. 

Jim said he would not stand for any position in the federation. 

"I'm a back bencher, I will not stand. We will put together a leadership team that will be on the ground. We will recruit workers and attend to their problems," said Jim. 

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Those part of SAFTU have set themselves the challenge of recruiting workers that don't belong to any union - and those workers make up 70 percent of the country's workforce. 

They will also be independent from political influence according to Vavi, and will not fall into the trap of losing touch with workers on the ground an issue that Vavi has accused Cosatu of doing. 

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim discussing plans for the federation.

Hundreds of union members, who form part of the founding 24 unions, are in attendance at congress including prominent unionist Jay Naidoo. 

Over the next few days members will have to come up with a final name for the federation, its constitution, logo and elect its leadership.