South Africa's main trade union federation, COSATU, expelled Zwelinzima Vavi, its popular general secretary but a vocal critic of President Jacob Zuma and the ruling African National Congress, senior union sources told Reuters.
(READ MORE: Vavi snubs COSATU as Dlamini lashes at former unionists)
The decision was taken on Monday night after the Congress of South African Trade Union's leaders decided Vavi had acted improperly by refusing to attend COSATU meetings and failing to endorse the expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, the federation's largest affiliate, sources said on Tuesday.
"Vavi and COSATU have been at odds for a while now," a union source at Monday's meeting told Reuters. "His expulsion was a mere formality and removes the voice of opposition."
His firing, after 16 years at the African National Congress aligned-federation, comes after COSATU expelled the 300-member-strong NUMSA last year. NUMSA had become a vocal opponent of Zuma, accusing his administration of putting business ahead of workers' interests.
"Don't mourn, Organise," Vavi, the told supporters on his official Twitter page.
Analysts said Vavi's expulsion may see him join ranks with NUMSA to create an alternative worker movement to challenge COSATU's dominance.
COSATU President Sidumo Dlamini declined to comment, saying the federation will hold a briefing at 1000 GMT.