Potchefstroom - South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who is on a recruitment drive, has sarcastically "thanked" the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) for expelling him.
Vavi and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) were expelled from Cosatu more than two years ago. The expulsions led to the formation of Saftu.
Vavi was kicked out from Cosatu for, among other things, bringing the union federation into disrepute. Numsa was expelled for its decision to withdraw support for the African National Congress (ANC).
Cosatu, the ANC, and the SA Communist Party are part of the political tripartite alliance.
"Thank you Nehawu [Nehawu National Health Education & Allied Workers Union], Thank you Cosatu for expelling Numsa and I. Maybe if they did not expel us we will be still be living in false hope," Vavi said on Tuesday while addressing members of the SA Liberated Public Sector Workers Union (Salipswu) in Potchefstroom.
Nehawu, which is affiliated to Cosatu, took a leading role in Vavi's expulsion from the union federation in 2015.
On an apparent recruiting mission, the former Cosatu general-secretary welcomed workers who left Nehawu to join Salipswu.
"We have created a new independent federation which is truly independent. You have been in Nehawu, you paying a subscription but not getting service this is because Nehawu is in bed with the employer. They compromise your interest," Vavi said.
He said there could not be a "better life" if workers were not continuously trained.
"We want cleaners to be trained so that they can be nurses, nurse be trained to become doctors and doctors to be trained to be the manager of this hospital [Potchefstroom]."
Fired Nehawu regional chairperson in Potchefstroom, Lucky Rampou used the occasion to take a swipe at his former union saying: "Nehawu is not visible, you only see them when there are problems".
Rampou said he was now "volunteering his time and resources" to grow Saftu in Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp.
In another development, two municipal workers trade unions affiliated to Saftu will be merged.
'"The two unions will be forced to merge, we cannot have two unions in the same sector," said Vavi.
The Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers of SA (Demawusa) and the Municipal and Allied Trade Union of South Africa (Matusa) both serve municipal workers and are affiliated to Saftu.
Demawusa and Matusa are breakaway trade unions from the SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu), which is affiliated to Cosatu.
Vavi said three more unions have shown interest in joining Saftu.
"The number of affiliated unions may increase from 24 to 27 by the end of the next central committee meeting."
From Potchefstroom, Vavi headed for Klerksdorp, where he was to continue his recruitment drive.