Former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.

The DA has accused the ANC of “advancing its agenda of nationalisation by stealth” after revelations that the ruling party, which is researching possible state intervention in mining, has secured a lucrative stake in various SA mines through its investment arm, Chancellor House.

DA spokesman on mining Hendrik Schmidt yesterday accused the ANC of a conflict of interest and of attempting “to use public resources and state control to the benefit of the ANC”.

The City Press yesterday reported that Chancellor House Mineral Resources, a subsidiary of Chancellor House Holdings, had netted rights over the past six years to carry out prospecting at 560 sites in the Northern Cape, North West and Mpumalanga.

Applications to prospect at a further 400 sites were still under consideration by the Department of Mineral Resources.

The newspaper reported that its investigations had revealed that top ANC leaders on the party’s national executive committee (NEC) like treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, deputy ministers Ebrahim Ebrahim and Ayanda Dlodlo, National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu, former spy boss Billy Masetlha, businessman Cyril Ramaphosa and SA ambassador to Italy Thenjiwe Mtintso all had direct interests in mining companies.

Schmidt said the ANC’s stake in mining was “wrong”, adding that the separation between the state and the private sector was becoming “increasingly blurred” because of the interest some ANC leaders had in mining companies.

The ANC was trying to advance its agenda of nationalisation “by stealth”, he said, because setting up mining companies that are “owned by the state, given licences by the state, and then operate as state businesses is clearly unethical”.

ANC spokesman Brian Sokutu’s defence that there was nothing wrong with NEC members having interests in mining, and that there was no conflict at all, was “disingenuous and cynical”, he said.

Sokutu said it would be a problem if such people “hold a senior public service position or that of a minister or a deputy minister”.

Schmidt said “it is clear that the ANC is influencing every step in the process of obtaining prospecting rights: it has set up a front company, which is overseeing its grip on tenders and is now ensuring that it gains control of mining rights”.

The state was “in essence nothing more” than an embodiment of Chancellor House, he said, “which is quietly going about the business of enriching the ANC coffers at the expense of real transformation”.

The ANC has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing through its interest in Chancellor House.

In February 2008 during the energy crisis, the ANC’s new treasurer-general, Mathews Phosa, announced that Chancellor House would “immediately” sell its 25 percent stake in Hitachi Power Africa, which had a contract to build boilers for two new Eskom power stations.

The ANC has not yet sold the stake.

Last week it also emerged that Chancellor House had purchased a major Swazi coal mine, prompting fresh criticism that it was benefiting from the national energy crisis, something the party denied.

The company that sold the mine, Xstrata Alloys, later said it did not produce thermal coal used for power generation, but anthracite, which is used in the smelting and refining processes.

ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu could not be reached for further comment yesterday. - Carien du Plessis - political bureau