Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini has invited mineworkers who had dumped the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to “come home to Cosatu”. Cosatu, the country’s biggest trade union federation, kicked off its 11th congress at the Gallagher Estate conference centre in Midrand, Johannesburg, this morning. Meeting in the face of the Marikana tragedy, where 45 people were killed amid a violent strike, Cosatu is seeking to show that it is still a genuine vehicle for workers’ struggles. In his opening address, Dlamini called on congress delegates to “honestly confront” the Marikana issue during discussions. Dlamini said Lonmin mineworkers in Marikana had genuine concerns about poor wages and working conditions. “These are the conditions which have resulted to what we saw and continue to see happening in Marikana and in the mining sector as a whole.” Mineworkers “cannot be expected to say ‘thank you basi’ when they know that the chief financial officer of Lonmin, Alan Ferguson, earns R854 581 a month, which is 152 times higher than the salary of a rock drill operator,” he said. He said the problem in Marikana was not rivalry between unions “nor can it simply be put as being a widening gap between leaders and members”. Cosatu affiliated NUM has been accused of being removed from its members, therefore delivering poor services. He called on mineworkers who have dumped the NUM, some in favour of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) while others prefer to represent themselves, to return to NUM. Dlamini also urged delegates to speak out about the organisation’s successes and failures. Cosatu has been accused of prioritising ANC-led alliance politics at the expense of workers’ bread-and-butter struggles. “These four days will be your opportunity to tell us (in) our faces where we have deviated,” Dlamini told delegates in his opening address. “This is your congress to point out where the organisation has done right and where it needs to consolidate.” Dlamini said Cosatu can only become stronger “by purging itself”. He told delegates that Cosatu was still as intact as it was when the current leadership was elected at the previous congress. The damage created by capitalism was, however, increasing across the world. And in South Africa, it’s also accompanied by the “systematic attacks directed at Cosatu and the liberation movement as a whole”. In what could set the agenda for debates in the next four days, particularly related to mining, Dlamini decried inequalities created by foreign-owned mining companies saying they “award themselves huge bonuses, extract our country’s resources, but hide away profits generated from plundering our resources and refuse to invest in our development, leaving our countries with deepening inequalities”. “They take the assets and money acquired through exploiting our resources outside the borders of our countries to tax havens. Some of these people hide their wealth into so-called trust accounts.” Dlamini said during the economic crisis opulence was on the rise, existing side by side with worsening abject poverty, unemployment and inequality, with “20 of the country’s richest men enjoying a 45% increase in wealth in 2010 at the height of the economic crisis”. Treading carefully, without mentioning names, except for that of Mvela Resources Chief Executive Officer Pine Pienaar who made R63 million in 2009, Dlamini said it was “interesting to note that the majority of the richest people in South Africa come from the mining sector”. Comparing this with the conditions of the working class – where half the country’s workers earn less than R2 800 a month – was reason enough for the introduction of socialism, said Dlamini. » Follow @MmanalediM and @City_Press for updates from the Cosatu congress.