An office bearer of Sapu told TimesLIVE they rejected Vavi because he was behaving “like the alpha and omega” of Saftu.
“We cannot have that, God forbid, but what would happen to Saftu if Vavi were to get into a car crash tomorrow?
“We cannot have the federation built around a personality cult. We want to demonstrate that Saftu will do just fine without Vavi.”
The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the biggest Saftu affiliate, is also expected to oppose Vavi after a falling-out between him and Numsa boss Irvin Jim.
Unions who support Vavi say he is too strong to lose the position.
Vavi appeared to have the backing of other Saftu affiliates as songs in favour of his leadership dominated the plenary just before the official opening of the conference on Monday morning.
They insist that they proved his broad support in the national executive committee of Saftu, where the federation's national office bearers who attempted to suspend Vavi ended up being suspended themselves.