Malema: Arrest Adriano Mazzotti if he is engaged in illicit cigarette smuggling

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EFF leader Julius Malema.  (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)
EFF leader Julius Malema. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

If controversial businessman Adriano Mazzotti is on the wrong side of the taxman and is engaged in illicit cigarette smuggling, as alleged, he must be arrested, EFF leader Julius Malema has said. 

Malema was speaking at a media briefing in Cape Town on Thursday, where he made it clear the EFF had never called for Mazzotti not to be prosecuted if he was found to be on the wrong side of the law.

He said talks about the businessman being brought up were attempts to silence the EFF, adding the party had no dealings with Mazzotti's business.

Mazzotti and his tobacco company, Carnilinx, have been in the news before because of a R1m loan he had made to Malema, Fin24 reported in February.

The businessman, who is one of Malema's confidantes, had also reportedly funded the party ahead of its registration in the 2014 general elections, which was confirmed by Malema on Radio 702

"They keep saying Mazzotti this, Mazzotti that... They have got the power and authority. We never said Mazzotti must not be arrested, so we are not going to be deterred by [the] Mazzotti criticism," he said. 

In a response, during a debate on President Cyril Ramaphosa's budget vote in Parliament on Wednesday, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu said while Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan was deployed to clean up state-owned entities, in his attempts to do so, "he stepped on some corrupt toes of EFF cronies". 

Mthembu said in Parliament: "The third one is that, indeed they are trying very hard to try and deviate from their friends who are dealing in illicit cigarettes, who fund them regularly. And it is these friends who are being pursued by our tax collecting agencies. Now Pravin becomes a scapegoat." 

However, Malema said there had been several attempts to silence the EFF by bringing up the businessman's name, and this would not deter them. 

"They tried it [mentioning Mazzotti] in Zuma's time, it can't work. They said we have personal issues with SARS... We [also] have no issues with the NPA. It has the power to charge whoever they want to. If they want to charge, let them, but we will never be silenced," he added.  

Also replying to Mthembu's assertions that the EFF's focus on Gordhan was based on a "deep-seated hatred" of Indians, Malema said their problem against the minister had nothing to do with race and colour.  

"Zuma was not an Indian, Malusi Gigaba was not an Indian, Nhlanhla Nene was not an Indian."

Malema said the party had been against all Africans whom Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane had made findings on. 

"Even if it's a white, coloured or an African tomorrow, we will do it. Don't violate the Constitution and hide behind race," he added.   

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