Mogul will ‘buy illegal fags, tell Sars’
If you’re lucky enough to get through the heavily guarded, glass-faced fortress of Amalgamated Tobacco Manufacturing (ATM) Africa in Mkondeni, outside Pietermaritzburg, pictures of company CEO Yusuf Kajee, 52, with politicians and other influential people dot the passageway.
It could be described as a shrine, dedicated to former president Jacob Zuma.
Controversial South African multimillionaire tobacco tycoon and Zuma fanatic Kajee paints a graphic picture of some of the role players in the multibillion-rand industry.
He defends his security detail, increased after threats to his life because he does not want to sell his products to anonymous opportunists during the ban on tobacco products.
Kajee is expanding the plant, half of which is now being used as a food-parcel distribution warehouse for those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kajee says cigarette production has been halted here, but the company’s factories in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana are still operational.
“What we produce in these countries is only 20% of what is actually sold there. Our own brand is counterfeited. Anything that is demanded, there is a counterfeit out there. You can’t fight the counterfeit trade because then we go into mafia world.”
When probed, Kajee accepted that his cigarettes could be making their way across the borders and into SA, but said he had “nothing to do with it”.
“Even now, if any of my product is available, I’m the first one to buy it. I’d rather buy it, tell
Sars I bought it and protect my brand.”
He says between 30 and 40 containers of “copied” cigarettes are brought into the country every month.
He emphasises that they are not counterfeit, but fall into a “grey area” of the market.
Kajee got into business with Edward Zuma in 2008 and says while they have parted ways, he maintains a “wonderful” relationship with him.
“It was Edward’s idea to step (down) as a director as he felt it was bringing negativity.”
But Kajee clearly has his fair share of enemies.
He says he has survived assassination attempts, including being shot at 22 times and surviving a poisoning incident.
Kajee says the industry is not for sissies and, ultimately, smoking will kill you. Times Select