Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Adriano Mazzotti
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Adriano Mazzotti

Plausible deniability. It’s a political phrase that captures that grey area in which politicians may reasonably distance themselves from something that stinks.

And so, when the Sunday Times reported that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had been hanging around with cigarette smugglers (alleged, of course — the Hawks being apparently unable to prosecute this sort of crime) to raise money for her presidential campaign, they reached for plausible deniability.

She posed with many people for photographs all the time. She didn’t even know these people.

There is some history that is relevant. While health minister under former President Nelson Mandela, Dlamini-Zuma had enacted the harsh anti-smoking laws that have brought shame to the families of smokers for a generation.

It would just be rude to take tobacco smuggling money, wouldn’t it?

Well, these people — described as “self-confessed” tobacco smuggler Adriano Mazzotti, gambling tycoon Philip Anastassopoulos and another — appeared to know Dlamini-Zuma a lot better than they were making out.

That’s the thing about the irresistible urge to post photographs of yourself and your friends on Instagram. Two such pictures were posted, proving at least two meetings, in London and Sandton.

One picture was posted with the line “Had a good week with mama Zuma and Adriano in London” while another exclaimed “Lovely spending another day with mama Zuma”.

Dlamini-Zuma, through spokesman Vukani Mthintso, conceded that the London meeting had taken place but denied that dirty tobacco was funding her campaign.

“There are millions of supporters and well-wishers of the campaign, which is led by the ANC Women’s League and supported by other structures. Many make contributions, either by volunteering their time or [presenting gifts] in kind to the structures,” says Mthintso.

Dlamini-Zuma also denies that she has had “any direct or substantive relationship” with the self-confessed cigarette smuggler.

Which is stretching plausible deniability into implausible territory.

Please sign in or register to comment.