"I would like to thank Numsa, who I think without their contribution, we would not have seen this day... where we started a very important milestone and turning a page in the history of workers," he told delegates on the closing day at Saftu's founding congress in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni.
"If Numsa had decided to bend on principles, crawl under because of a nonsensical slogan of 'it is cold outside'... or turn its back on the truth, we would not be here today," Vavi said in his acceptance speech after being elected unopposed as Saftu general secretary.
"Also, if Fawu [Food and Allied Workers' Union] and other unions did not stand up, we would not be able to unite all these workers. Every individual member of Numsa is thanked for being the catalysts in this long, painful journey. My salary is paid by Numsa and I am grateful that it carried the can on behalf of the federation."
Vavi also thanked Fawu deputy president and chairman of the Saftu steering committee Raymond Mnguni and Numsa deputy president Basil Cele who he said were "solid leaders, cool and collected".
The 23 unions represented at the founding congress elected Vavi as general secretary, Fawu deputy general secretary Moleko Phakedi as his deputy, Numsa's Mack Chabalala as president, Nomvume Ralarala as first deputy president, Thabo Matose as second deputy president, and Motswari Letshogo as treasurer.
All were nominated unopposed and announced formally on Sunday.