The newly launched labour federation, Saftu, has elected its leadership at its founding congress, with former Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi elected as general secretary.

Johannesburg - The newly launched labour federation the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has elected its leadership at its founding congress, with former Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi being elected as general secretary.

Union affiliates nominated their preferred candidates on Saturday, with the Independent Electoral Commission overseeing the process.

Saftu’s three-day congress started on Friday.

Those elected include; Numsa’s Mac Chabalala as President, Vavi as general secretary, Nomvume Ralarala as first deputy President, and the treasurer is Motswari Letshogo.

The leadership was nominated unopposed and the nomination process was surprisingly done in secret, and not from the congress floor as usually expected during union elective conferences.

But according to Vavi, his was not unusual and he downplayed the possibility that this move, to nominate leadership in secret ballots, was undemocratic.

However, he did confirm that the federation’s steering committee, which includes each union representative, met before the congress and agreed on a consensus on the question of leadership.

“The steering committee that was preparing for this congress, held a view that there should be a consensus on all matters, including the matter of leadership since this is the first congress to merge the unions. We feel it would be somehow risky to open the issue that constitutes the actual establishment congress up for voting, and therefore into to power play,” said Vavi at the sidelines of the congress.

Vavi's is election into a powerful position may have been expected as some of Numsa’s leadership had already said that he was the right man for the job, mainly because of the amount of work he has put into the formation of the federation.

Saftu was formed as alternative for workers who were tired of Cosatu, after Numsa and Vavi were expelled from Cosatu in 2015.

Delegates have agreed on the name, constitution, logo and colours of the organisation.

Debates on the character of the federation went on for some time as members debated between a pan-Africanist and marxist Leninist character.

Another issue was the poaching of members, with some delegates calling for a committee to deal specifically with the recruiting scope of unions.

It was agreed that unions should organise within the sectors that they were registered under at the Department of Labour.

The federation plans to go on extensive recruitment campaign across the country with the aim of recruiting the 72% of non-unionized workers .

The congress ends on Sunday.

Political Bureau