Dlamini-Zuma’s alleged links to illicit cigarette industry spark debate over smoking ban

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma flanked by Adriano Mazzotti, left, and Carnilinx chief operating officer Mohammadh Sayed. On Thursday she tweeted that she is not corrupt and has never looted. Picture: SUPPLIED.
Alleged links between Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and tobacco kingpin Adriano Mazzotti has fueled debate over what is really driving the continued ban on tobacco sales.

In 2017, the Sunday Times reported that Dlamini-Zuma had a close relationship with Mazzotti, and the pair have allegedly taken trips to the UK and Greece together.

However, Dlamini-Zuma has denied the two were friends and that she accepted money from Mazzotti.

But at the very least, it can be confirmed that Mazzotti has been a big spender when it comes to funding the ANC.

Ahead of the ANC’s 106th birthday celebrations in East London in January 2018, the controversial tobacco boss dropped a cool R250,000 to sit among the party’s elite at a fund-raising gala dinner held at the East London International Convention Centre.

In a written response to journalist Jacques Pauw, writing in the Daily Maverick in December 2018, ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa confirmed that Mazzotti “bought” a table for R250,000, or a so-called “Platinum package”.

DispatchLIVE reported prior to the January 12, 2018 event that the platinum package would allow guests to access an ANC Top 6 member at their table along with a “distinguished guest”.

Having a government minister or premier and a distinguished guest at the table was priced at R200,000.

Mazzotti has denied allegations that he “may have had an influence” on the government’s decision to ban tobacco products during the lockdown for self-gain.

He has told journalists the mere fact that he is challenging the cigarette ban is an indication that he is not benefitting from any personal relationships with ministers.

The illicit trade in cigarettes, particularly local brands, has skyrocketed since the lockdown took effect, with hundreds of millions of tax rands lost to the country.

By John Harvey – Dispatch Live