‘E-mails to Beetge weeks old’

2012-10-29 00:00

JAILED drug mule Tessa Beetge’s mother has heard no confirmation of whether her daughter knows yet that Sheryl Cwele has been sentenced to 20 years in jail.

However, she felt reassured by a phone call to the South African consulate-general in Brazil last week.

“Tessie should know by now,” Marie Swanepoel told The Witness yesterday.

“The person I spoke to said that all of Brazil knows.”

Although Swanepoel has received e-mails from her daughter since the news of Cwele being jailed broke, they were written long before sentence was handed down. This is because Brazilian prison authorities first vet all prisoners’ correspondence before allowing it through.

She is only allowed to speak to Beetge on the phone twice a year and expects to do so again at Christmas.

Beetge is around halfway through a sentence of nearly eight years in a Sao Paulo prison, having been caught smuggling cocaine at the city’s Guarulhos International Airport in 2008.

Nigerian Frank Nabolisa and Cwele, the former director of health at the Hibiscus Coast Municipality, and ex-wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, were convicted of hiring Beetge to smuggle drugs.

Earlier this month, their appeals to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) resulted in their 12-year sentences being increased to 20 years.

“I asked the consulate to see if they could help her [Beetge] write to the president of Brazil if she chooses to do so,” Swanepoel said yesterday.

She has already written to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff herself, asking for a presidential pardon for her daughter. She sent a registered letter earlier this month, shortly after news broke of Cwele’s increased sentence.

Swanepoel is still waiting for an acknowledgement of receipt.

In her letter she mentioned that previous correspondence from Brazilian authorities, via the South African government, implied that if the “big fish” in the drug trafficking in which Beetge was caught up in were jailed, there could be hope for her punishment being softened.

The SCA judgment praised Swanepoel’s courage and determination, which it said had led to Cwele and Nabolisa’s convictions.

“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,” the judges said.

“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.”

• duncan.guy@witness.co.za

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