The former ANC Youth League leader, has used the platform created by the Marikana massacre, to attack Cosatu's largest affiliate – the National Union of Mineworkers – for failing to provide leadership at Lonmin, something which resulted in thousands of mineworkers embarking on an illegal strike over salary increases.
NUM leaders, including its president Senzeni Zokwana were chased away by workers who accused NUM of siding with management at the expense of the interests of the workers. However, Vavi defended NUM.
"Suddenly politicians, far removed from the reality workers face … are positioning themselves opportunistically as the champions of the RDOs [rock drill operators]. Their latest recruit is former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, a wealthy, essentially right-wing leader, who demagogically exploits any perceived weakness to encourage workers to leave their union, their only means of defence," said Vavi.
Despite Vavi's scathing attack, Malema told the Mail & Guardian in an interview that he did not see any need to hit back at the Cosatu boss, as he was aware that Vavi was under pressure from certain elements within the alliance who wanted to remove him as Cosatu general secretary.
"I have nothing against Vavi and will always support and defend him as a brother and comrade. Unlike others who are produced by small nursing unions and do not have a history of being fighters, Vavi is a product of Cosas [Congress of South African Students]. We speak one language with him. He is the only revolutionary remaining in Cosatu," Malema said.
"He is saying all these things about me because he is under pressure from forces who expelled me from the ANC. I don't think he believes in the things he says about me. He is closer to us by virtue of the things he believes in like the call for the nationalisation of mines and other key sectors of the economy.
"They [his opponents] are putting pressure on him [to attack us] because they believe he sits with us in corners to talk about these things. The last time I was with him was in March," said Malema.
He suggested Vavi took a soft line on the Marikana shootings because he wanted to be re-elected as a leader of Cosatu, during the federation's national congress later this month.
"He [Vavi] would have been among the first people in Cosatu to go to Marikana. But he is under pressure now. He was heavily criticised by NUM leadership after he went to the Impala Platinum mines to find a resolution to the wage dispute between NUM members and employers there," said Malema.
Earlier on Monday, Malema used his interview with Kaya FM to question President Jacob Zuma's leadership style, describing him as a liability to the ANC and that his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, was the only capable ANC leader who could unite the party and restore its tainted image created by Zuma.
He said Zuma's re-election at the ANC's elective conference in Mangaung would not help the movement going forward.
"The ANC has never been so divided. Our image is compromised by his [Zuma's] lifestyle. We have a leader who is [more] driven by his interests. We supported him in Polokwane because we genuinely thought he was wrongly accused [by the Thabo Mbeki government], but we realised later that we committed a mistake".
Malema also reiterated his accusations against the ANC president for sending the wrong message on the government's fight against HIV/Aids.
Undermining gender equality
"He [Zuma] is not inspiring with regard to the government's campaign to reduce the level of HIV/Aids in the country. He has been involved in the campaigns before, but now he is doing the contrary to all those efforts," said Malema.
Malema also said by marrying many wives, Zuma was undermining gender equality in the country. He called on ANC members to elect Motlanthe as he was the only leader who could rescue the movement.
"We have many capable leaders in the ANC, but at the moment Motlanthe is the right person. People should not be stopped from raising names of their preferred candidates," said Malema.
He dismissed concerns that Motlanthe's chances of clinching the ANC presidency were slim because he has so far not shown interest in standing for the party's top position.
"Motlanthe never showed his hand even prior to Polokwane, but he emerged as deputy president. He was secretary general before he was elected deputy president in 2007. He is not someone who raises his hand. He says branches must choose. That's a leader, not a factionalist. We don't want favours from him [Motlanthe], but to unite and bring back the image of the ANC."
The M&G last week reported that Motlanthe had told those who are lobbying for him to replace Zuma, that he would only accept nomination if it was not aligned to slates, because they were the main cause of divisions within the ANC.