Beetge lands in SA with new love at side

2014-03-28 00:00

DRUG mule Tessa Beetge returned to South Africa after more than five years in a Brazilian jail with a new love at her side yesterday.

Beetge, formerly of the South Coast, arrived at O.R. Tambo International Airport with three other released drug mules.

She was enticed to smuggle drugs by Sheryl Cwele, former wife of the minister of State Security.

Her aunt, Margie Olsen of Cape Town, waited from early in the morning, clutching a bouquet of yellow roses. Yellow was the favourite colour of Beetge’s mother, Marie Swanepoel, who died suddenly last October, after years of struggling to help her imprisoned daughter.

Her efforts helped lead to the convictions of Cwele and her friend, Nigerian Frank Nabolisa, as the masterminds of the cocaine trafficking operation. They are each serving 12 years in prison.

Beetge’s father, Gert Swanepoel, travelled from Margate to welcome her. He told sister paper Beeld he has forgiven Cwele, Beetge’s former neighbour, for the years Tessa was taken from him.

Beetge’s daughters were only 10 and 12 when she was stopped at Sao Paulo Airport in 2008 with 10 kg of cocaine in her possession.

The media attention was too much for Beetge and a friend helped her leave the airport quietly, leaving even Olsen confused. Eventually, she too left the airport, still holding the bouquet, hoping to greet “Tessie” later.

After her arrival, Beetge went for breakfast with her new boyfriend, Shane Heydenrych (35) of Roodepoort, and his family.

She met Heydenrych, himself a former drug mule, as a penfriend, and he travelled back to South Africa with her. They had been held in prisons 300 km from each other.

Speaking by phone from the restaurant, Beetge told Beeld she was struggling to orient herself. “I’m not fine,” she said tearfully. “All I want to do is track down all my family. I want to see my children.”

She said she will have to rebuild her life from scratch.

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