Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi did not make reference to the African National Congress (ANC) or any individual leader of the ANC when talking about "political hyenas" earlier this week, the union federation said on Thursday.
Cosatu was responding to criticism by ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema who urged the ruling party to take action against Vavi over his remarks.
"Comrade Malema is therefore completely mistaken in interpreting this comment as an attack on the ANC or ANCYL or as "public spats"," Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said in a statement.
Vavi told an affiliate gathering on Monday that should "tenderpreneurs" succeed in making corruption acceptable in society, the country would slip into a "predator state" controlled by "political hyenas" who made looting acceptable.
He added: "Let me hasten to say when we talk about a defeated agenda of the new tendency we are not referring to the ANCYL, as the media would rush to say. The ANCYL is the natural ally of the workers. Tenderpreneurs are found in all the organisations that make up the liberation movement including in the ANCYL and Cosatu.
"Most worrying has been the phenomenon where the real political hyenas use money and company shares to buy elements within the ANCYL and in other youth organisations to advance their dirty agendas.
"The time is coming where we shall have to name and shame these real enemies of the revolution who mouth unity but are hell-bent on destroying the cohesion of the liberation movement for their selfish ends."
Craven said that Vavi was pronouncing on corruption, which the ANC's national general council in Durban last week resolved to eradicate.
He called on Malema to join Cosatu, the ANC, the South African Communist Party and civil society in the campaign to "eradicate the cancer of corruption" in society, wherever it occurred.
Malema on Thursday criticised Vavi for calling some ANC leaders "hyenas".
"We are still suffering from flu from Durban... and already Vavi insults leaders of the ANC as hyenas," Malema told reporters at Luthuli House in Johannesburg.
The ANC's NGC in Durban last week came out strongly against ill-discipline and public spats.
"That spirit of the NGC was completely undermined by the general secretary of Cosatu," Malema said.
He urged ANC leaders to take action.
"Delegates spoke in one voice that discipline must be applied consistently... we are awaiting that consistency from leadership."