Malema proudly owns his friendship with Adriano Mazzotti

Malema proudly owns his friendship with Adriano Mazzotti

Malema with self-confessed tobacco smuggler Adriano Mazzotti (on the left). In the middle is American DJ "Little Louis" Vega.

The EFF leader has thrown down a challenge to anyone using his relationship with the ‘cigarette smuggler’ to criticise him.

In a Twitter post on Sunday afternoon, EFF leader Julius Malema made it clear that reports about his friendship with self-confessed cigarette smuggler Adriano Mazzotti not only don’t phase him, he is actually more than happy to include Mazzotti’s name in the same breath as the names of his children, siblings, grandmother, mother and wife.

He even pinned the tweet to his timeline, sarcastically describing himself as: “Tshepo, Tsubi and Ronny’s brother. Rati, Zhedzi and Pano’s father and Mantoa’s husband. The grandson of Koko Sarah and the only child of Mahlodi Malema. And indeed Adriano Mazzotti’s Friend.”

Earlier this year it was reported that the SA Revenue Service (Sars) was trying to reclaim millions in debt allegedly owed to them by Mazzotti, the co-owner of controversial tobacco company CarniLinx.

According to investigative reporter Pauli van Wyk, Sars obtained warrants to attach and remove Mazzotti’s moveable property, which included luxury cars and expensive art.

His tax debt allegedly stood at more than R70 million rand at the time.

Mazzotti’s high-security home in Hyde Park as well as a warehouse in Kya Sands were reportedly raided.

Mazzotti came to attention for having donated money to the EFF to register with the Independent Electoral Commission to contest the elections in 2014.

The controversial businessman is often described as a “self-confessed cigarette smuggler” in the media after he admitted to being complicit in a host of crimes, including fraud, money laundering, corruption, tax evasion and bribery in an affidavit signed in May 2014.

In an interview with the SABC’s On Point last year, Malema said a loan and donation given to him by the two co-owners of CarniLinx had never been a secret.

Malema admitted in July 2018 that he received a loan from Kyle Philips, the co-owner of CarniLinx. The loan was reportedly worth R1 million, and Malema claimed he declared the loan to Sars.

Malema also admitted Mazotti donated at least R200,000 to the EFF directly. He said the focus on this by the media and the public had nothing to do with Mazotti, and was instead caused by the party’s detractors’ disappointment that the EFF had managed to register and become an official political party thanks to this donation.

Investigative journalist Jacques Pauw’s 2017 book, The President’s Keepers, detailed allegations that Mazzotti was also one of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s funders.

Mazzotti denied the claim.

Malema and Pauw have regularly crossed swords over Malema’s Mazzotti connection.

The EFF leader earlier this year took exception to a tweet Pauw posted that claimed Malema and his family were not only Mazzotti’s neighbours but he was their Hyde Park landlord.

Pauw controversially shared the address of the property Malema’s wife and children were believed to live in, and was reportedly owned by Mazzotti, bordering his own luxury compound in the upmarket suburb.

Pauw deleted the tweet after the SA National Editors’ Forum appealed to him to do so, but he defended his decision to share a photo of Malema with his infant son sitting next to Mazzotti, a move that enraged EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi as well as many of the party’s supporters.

The author argued the image had already been freely uploaded by Malema to social media and was in the public domain.

The reactions to Malema’s tweet were predictably diverse, with several people criticising the boastful tweet, with others admiring the EFF leader for sticking it to his enemies.

Malema even described this article as stupid shortly after it was published.

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