Jacques Pauw, the veteran South African investigative journalist, has raised the possibility that the continued prohibition on the sale of tobacco products during lockdown could be due to nefarious forces.

On Wednesday, minister of co-operate governance Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said tobacco products could not be sold during the level four lockdown, despite President Cyril Ramaphosa having announced that the ban would be lifted on 1 May.

Pauw was speaking to Kieno Kammies on CapeTalk radio. He said that there was no rational basis for the continued ban on tobacco products. Said Pauw: ‘We have to look at politics… We all know in which camp Dlamini-Zuma is. There is a nexus between her and Ace Magashule (African National Congress [ANC] Secretary-General) and even the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters).’

According to Pauw, the continued ban could be due to links between Dlamini-Zuma and Adrian Mazzotti, described as an ‘alleged illicit tobacco kingpin’ by CapeTalk. Mazzotti allegedly funded some of Dlamini-Zuma’s campaign to become leader of the ANC in 2017, and photos have emerged of Dlamini-Zuma and Mazzotti together.

The EFF, which came out in strong support for the continued tobacco ban, have also allegedly been funded by Mazzotti.

Said Pauw: ‘I can assure you that lots of Mazzotti’s cigarettes are being sold around at the moment… We’re talking about organised crime here. In the meantime, South Africa is losing tax revenue at a time when the government urgently needs money.’

Pauw is the author of The President’s Keepers, published in 2017, which exposed the links between former President Jacob Zuma (Dlamini-Zuma’s ex-husband) and organised crime.