Cosatu's general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi fears not only for his political future but also his life amid reports of a move to oust him.
"I can't ignore what is happening around me," Vavi said in an open and frank discussion with the Mail & Guardian on Sunday.
"There is a coordinated effort by my enemies to attack me – especially in the media. The sources that are being quoted are throwing mud in the hopes some of it will stick and are peddling lies that are simply not true."
Vavi's comments came three days after the M&G reported Vavi was being falsely accused of malfeasance by detractors within the Congress of South African Trade Unions – in the hopes that he would lose his position within the labour federation.
As a fervent campaigner against corruption and vocal opponent of government's shortcomings, Vavi is known to have fallen out with members of the tripartite alliance aligned with President Jacob Zuma.
Although he did not openly canvas for a leadership change at the ANC's Mangaung electoral conference, Vavi was understood to have backed Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe's bid to oust Zuma in December last year.
Declined NEC position
Moreover, Vavi declined nomination to the ruling party's powerful national executive committee (NEC) at the conference – which saw senior members of Cosatu, including president Sdumo Dlamini, being elected to the party's highest decision-making body between conferences.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe also admonished Vavi in his political report at the conference while berating members of the tripartite alliance who criticised the ruling party in public and in the press.
"It is always awkward when any alliance partner pronounces negatively on the other alliance partners and the other partners only discover the problem in the media. Alerting the other alliance partner is not tantamount to giving away the right to take independent decisions," his report read.
Hostilities increased since Mangaung and the South African Communist Party (SACP) upped the ante on Sunday when it called for public standoffs between members of the alliance to cease immediately.
"Organisational weaknesses and factionalism within our formations plays into the hands of our class opponents, and encourages all manner of populist demagogues to exploit the situation," an SACP statement said.
'Nothing to do with Vavi'
Although SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande claimed the party's criticism had "nothing to do with Vavi", his utterances could be construed as a further snipe against the Cosatu leader.
"If what I say and do sits uncomfortably with the powerful people in our society then so be it," Vavi said.
"The campaign against corruption and the massive waste of public money is not a Vavi campaign, it is a Cosatu campaign. I am merely articulating the policy stand-points of my movement."
Vavi said he knew who was behind the moves to end his poltical career, but would not identify anyone.
"I know who is out to get to me and exactly what is happening," he added.
"I have no doubt that my support in the rank and file membership of Cosatu is strong, you just have to look at the outcome of our congress last year. I have people that support me."
Vavi added that in spite of the campaign – which he claimed was coupled with death threats against him and his family – he will not be silenced.