Durban – EFF leader Julius Malema has leapt to the defence of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma for standing firmly behind the decision to ban the sale of cigarettes during the lockdown, saying criticism of her was “nonsensical and unacceptable”.
During a virtual press conference on Thursday Malema said that they had observed numerous unnecessary attacks against Dlamini Zuma which insinuated that she had banned cigarettes because she was supporting Adriano Mazzotti’s “underground selling of cigarettes.”
Mazzotti is the owner of cigarette company Carnilinx, with whom Dlamini Zuma was photographed on several occasions in the build up to the ANC’s 54th national conference in December 2017 in which Dlamini Zuma lost out in the ANC presidential race to Cyril Ramaphosa.
“It’s nonsensical and unacceptable because we all know where Nkosazana comes with the battle against tobacco. Her attitude on tobacco doesn’t start now and it’s a principled stance she has taken and we must support her.
“In the long run tobacco is not a solution, we must at some point find a way where we have a society free of cigarettes. It’s not a long term solution, so her attitude is correct, her attitude on cigarettes doesn’t start now,” Malema said.
The EFF leader went on to say that even journalist and author Jaque Pauw and former SARS executive Johann Van Loggerenberg had confirmed that Mazzotti had nothing to do with Dlamini Zuma’s attitude on cigarettes.
“They attack Nkosazana and discredit her for their own opportunistic reasons and they use Mazzotti to do so. So it’s really unfair,” Malema said.
He said that people did not know that Mazzotti’s cigarette association was taking the government to court and not the British American Tobacco (BAT) company who he said would never head to court because the banning of cigarettes benefitted BAT more than smaller companies.
“The cigarette is banned in South Africa, not in Namibia, so the BAT exists in Namibia because the BAT is a multinational company. When you ban cigarettes in South Africa the BAT doesn’t get affected because it continues to sell in other countries, hence it would not go to court.
“But the small companies that sell in South Africa are the ones that are going to collapse because when you open the cigarettes sales in South Africa these companies would have collapsed,” said Malema.
He said that this would give the big companies, and BAT in particular, more advantage before adding that the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) forces within the ANC were supporting Dlamini Zuma from a misinformed point of view of “not having an appreciation of how tobacco politics work.”
Malema said the continued ban of cigarettes in the country continued to benefit the multinational companies and would destroy small companies that only existed within the borders of South Africa.
“But, let’s tell you, we don’t care whether you close cigarettes or you don’t close cigarettes in South Africa we actually don’t want cigarettes,” scoffed Malema.
He said that those who wanted to intellectualise the debate should bring a scientific argument and use it against the sale of alcohol.
“If you put alcohol here and you put cigarettes here, cigarettes will win against alcohol if you’re not going to be emotional about it. So whether Mazzotti sells illegal cigarettes, like you keep saying Mazzotti sells illegal cigarettes, arrest Mazzotti.
“You use illegal cigarettes of Mazzotti to try and silence others. When people want to enter the debate on cigarettes you say it’s ‘hay, hay, hay it’s Mazzotti’s people’,” added Malema.