Auctioning Cwele’s ‘gift’

2012-10-15 00:00

TWO Brazilian “angels” who help people caught up on the wrong side of the law are on Marie Swanepoel’s list of people to whom she would like to make donations.

This would be possible if she and her husband, Swanie, end up auctioning the leopard skin print coat Sheryl Cwele gave their daughter Tessa Beetge “for good luck” when she sent her overseas.

Beetge has not since returned, but Marie brought the coat back when she went to visit her in Brazil at the beginning of her jail time, after having been caught as a mule, carrying cocaine.

The Swanepoels are still mulling over whether to auction the coat, as they still need to establish from their boxes of records whether Cwele gave it or lent it to their daughter.

Her prison minders gave it to Marie along with other possessions and she’s kept it ever since.

One of the “angels” is a woman she knows as Syveniester who has opened her Sao Paulo home to former prisoners, as they come out of incarceration.

“She takes them in, until they can get home, if they can,” Marie told The Witness.

“I haven’t had personal contact with her, yet I know of her and I know what she’s doing.”

The other is Bruna Bumachara, who visits the families of prisoners and this year visited South Africa and Mozambique.

“She brought over for me things that Tessie had not been allowed in prison, such as some clothing, a Portuguese Bible someone gave her, because it was hard-covered, deodorant and a photo album,” said Marie. “She also filled a suitcase with stuff for prisoners from their families over here to take back to Sao Paulo.”

Marie could not afford to go to Johannesburg to see her, but they spoke on the phone and made a plan to get the goods to one another. She understands that Bumachara is a former member of Brazil’s ITTC, the Instituto Terra, Trabalho e Cidadania (The Institute of Land, Work, and Citizenship), a church-based organisation that plays a vital role in the lives of foreign detainees.

This month, Swanie made an off-the-cuff comment to a reporter that they should auction the coat, never having given the idea a thought. “The reporter wasn’t even taking notes. Next minute I read it in the paper.”

However, he and Marie have since begun to feel that it’s a brilliant idea. They’ve decided that if they sell it, they would give it a starting price of R150 000. They have started dreaming of affording a visit to their daughter, who is nearly halfway through her sentence of nearly eight years.

“I would also put money away for Tessa and her children,” said Marie, adding that she still would never want to even touch it.

“I’m allergic to it.”

Cwele, the ex-wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele and former director of health of the Hibiscus Coast Municipality, started a 20-year sentence this month after her application to appeal her conviction backfired on her. She was originally sentenced to 12 years.

Jailed with her was Nigerian national Frank Nabolisa.

Commenting on a Sunday newspaper article about Sheryl Cwele’s mother making her first weekly visit to her daughter at Westville Prison, Marie said: “She’s lucky. I feel robbed that I can’t just go and see Tessa.”

The Supreme Court of Appeal judgment praised Marie’s courage and determination, saying it had led to the convictions of Cwele and Nabolisa.

“In most cases, the courier or ‘mule’ is caught, while the handler [the drug dealer or importer] remains safe in the background, to carry on with his/her evil deeds,” it read. “In the present matter, it was only through the courage and determination of Tessa’s mother that the real culprits have been brought to book.”

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