[imagesource: Adrian de Kock]
Alert level 3 – the booze is flowing, but the tobacco sales ban remains.
By now, you’ve probably seen the videos showing queues outside liquor stores around the country, and I imagine there will be a similar frenzy when (if?) tobacco sales are once again allowed.
There are a number of battles being fought in court, and the government is being accused of dishonesty with regards to the reasons behind the ban.
In amongst it all, the name Adriano Mazzotti is mentioned, often in connection with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, although she has denied any such link.
Mazzotti is also a name that’s familiar to investigative journalist Jacques Pauw, perhaps best known for penning The President’s Keepers, and he recently wrote a News24 piece focused on South Africa’s tobacco trade industry.
He also draws from tobacco expert Telita Snyckers’ new book, Dirty Tobacco, which offers great insight into the mechanisms of the industry.
Let’s start with Pauw’s Mazzotti mentions:
The links of Carnilinx’s Mazzotti to prominent politicians are well-known. He gave money to the EFF to register for the 2014 elections, and one of Carnilinx’s directors has claimed to have given firebrand politician Julius Malema a R1 million loan to pay his SARS tax debt.
The lockdown has yet again hoisted Mazzotti and Carnilinx into the limelight, and not just because its brands like Atlantic, CTC, Morrison and F1 are illegally purchased and smoked across the country, but because of Mazzotti’s links to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister and National Coronavirus Command Council supremo Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
In The President’s Keepers, published towards the end of 2017, Mazzotti is exposed as a benefactor of the ANC presidential campaign of Dlamini-Zuma. He apparently financed campaign clothing like caps and T-shirts for her campaign.
There’s also plenty about Mazzotti’s battles with SARS, which he consistently managed to dodge without extensive legal repercussions.
It’s no wonder that SARS, during its extensive ‘Project Honey Badger’ investigation into tobacco smuggling, found links to the highest office in the land, although investigations were quickly squashed:
The tobacco industry and many other enemies of SARS hit back. What happened next could have come from the pages of a spy novel. Within months, the taxman was captured, Honey Badger stopped and SARS’ five investigation units were disbanded.
…while SARS had been digging into the tobacco trade, they were also looking at then-president Jacob Zuma’s taxes and found evidence of smuggling profits going to Nkandla and Zuma family members.
Soon after, Zuma appointed an old friend and former prisons boss Tom Moyane [above] as SARS commissioner. Moyane was a tax delinquent but it did not matter. He was appointed to get rid of “sensitive” cases and rid the taxman of the pesky individuals threatening the State Capture project.
Shortly after Moyane’s appointment, the infamous Sunday Times “rogue unit” story started doing the rounds, and it became clear that SARS had fallen victim to State Capture.
Pauw’s News24 piece is full of zingers, many of which we already knew from his book and previous investigations, but it’s still worth a read in full.
Before you do that, let’s finish with how Mazzotti appears to be laughing all the way to the bank due to the tobacco ban:
BAT and FITA – of which Mazzotti and Carnilinx are members – are heading to court to challenge Dlamini-Zuma’s cigarette ban. He has used this challenge as proof that he is not in cahoots with the minister.
According to the UCT study, the largest seller of cigarettes during the lockdown period is Gold Leaf Tobacco, with a 30% market share, followed by British American Tobacco with a 24% market share, Carnilinx with 10% and Best Tobacco Company with 9%.
If the figures are correct, Carnilinx and Mazzotti have quintupled its South African market share, from 2% to 10%.
When you factor in that cigarettes are selling for as much as R3 000 a carton, that’s good business.
Read Pauw’s article in full here.
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