HOME Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has upped the ante in the African National Congress's (ANC's) controversial plans for mining, telling African policy makers yesterday that it was time to "take control" of Africa's mineral wealth.

Ms Dlamini-Zuma's fighting talk at a conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) also came as Southern African Development Community (Sadc ) leaders were due to meet in Pretoria to discuss lobbying to get her elected as chairwoman of the African Union (AU) on July 17.

Ms Dlamini-Zuma's comments were part of the growing endorsement by senior members of the ANC for greater state involvement in mining, and came a day after three major global ratings agencies said the plan was a threat to investor confidence.

"We should take control of our natural resources. We should beneficiate and also ensure that we do get sufficient benefit from these mineral resources," Ms Dlamini-Zuma told delegates.

"At the moment, the company doing the extraction, (the) beneficiation, gets the resources and gets the financial benefit while the countries and its people receive very little," she said.

A report commissioned by the ANC and discussed at its policy conference last week, proposed a 50% resource rent tax on mining "super profits", along with increased regulation, as well as price and export controls for minerals seen as "strategic".

"Its important that the wealthier partners in the Commonwealth contribute to our development guided by our own priorities," Ms Dlamini-Zuma said to general applause.

She said African countries also needed to contain the illicit outflow of capital from the continent and use its raw-materials advantage to attract investment.

It was important to improve transport and telecoms infrastructure to facilitate trade within the continent, she said.

"We have taken lots of decisions as the AU, but where we have failed is in the implementation of the decision," she said in what could be read as a swipe at AU chairman Jean Ping, who was running against her.

The speech was followed by an announcement by International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at the Sadc meeting, that the regional body was unanimous on the appointment of a woman to lead the AU.

"In this decade of women, from 2010 to 2020, Sadc and the southern region are presenting again a formidable candidate in respect to the heads of states' resolution to dedicate this decade to women," she said.

African leaders will meet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the latest AU summit this month.

The event was originally scheduled for Lilongwe, Malawi, but it was moved after Malawi refused to welcome Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, a war crimes suspect.

Mr Ping and Ms Dlamini-Zuma squared off for the post in January, but the election was deadlocked when neither could get the 75% majority required.

Institute for Security Studies head Jakkie Cilliers said the CPA conference had been a chance for Ms Dlamini-Zuma to make an impression ahead of the AU vote and espouse ANC policy.

With Sapa

neethlingt@bdfm.co.za