Cwele appeals conviction

2015-09-08 10:34
Sheryl Cwele

Sheryl Cwele (Dries Liebenberg)

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Pietermaritzburg - Convicted drug dealer Sheryl Cwele made a surprise appearance in the high court in Pietermaritzburg on Monday, where she lodged an urgent application asking the court to “reconsider” her ­sentence.

Cwele, the former wife of South ­Africa’s State Security Minister, ­Siyabonga Cwele, is serving 12 years’ ­imprisonment for her role in an ­enterprise that used drug mules to smuggle cocaine into South Africa.

The enterprise came to light when one of the drug mules, Tessa Beetge, a ­mother of two from the South Coast, was arrested and imprisoned in Brazil after being caught in possession of 10 kg of cocaine in her luggage at Sao Paulo airport in 2008.

Cwele recruited Beetge while she was working for the Hibiscus Coast ­Municipality.

Cwele said in an affidavit which was before the high court on Monday, that she had approached the Correctional ­Services authorities with a request to convert the remainder of her 12-year jail term to correctional supervision.

However, she was told she was not ­eligible for correctional supervision.

But according to Cwele, after reading up on the law, she believes she does ­qualify for correctional supervision.

Cwele’s application was heard in the civil court where, ironically, the ­presiding judge on Monday was Judge Pete Koen, who was responsible for ­sentencing Cwele and her co-accused, Frank Nabolisa, to 12 years’ ­imprisonment in May 2011.

However, the sentence was later ­increased to 20 years by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Nabolisa approached the ­Constitutional Court to overturn that decision and won.

After his sentence was reduced back to 12 years, Cwele also lodged a similar Constitutional Court appeal, and her sentence was also reduced back to 12 years’ imprisonment in August 2013.

Judge Koen on Monday adjourned the case for an indefinite period after being told by Advocate Mergen Chetty that the Correctional Services authorities are intending to oppose Cwele’s ­application.

He explained to Cwele that the ­authorities — including the minister and national commissioner of Correctional Services, as well as the Westville prison authorities — would have an opportunity to file responding affidavits.

Looking calm and collected, Cwele ­acknowledged that she understood.

She wore her hair long and straight, and dressed in civilian clothes — a long blue skirt and cream shirt.

Cwele sat in the public gallery waiting for the case to be called, flanked by two Correctional Services officials. After her fleeting appearance in court, she walked back to the court cells accompanied by the two prison officials.

Convicting Cwele on May 6, 2011, Judge Koen found that she and Nabolisa were the masterminds behind the ­enterprise to import cocaine into South Africa.

The judge found Cwele had played a slightly smaller role than Nabolisa, who was in charge of making travel arrangements and paying the drug mules.

However, Cwele was found to have ­recruited both Beetge and Charmaine Moss — another South Coast woman who opted out before travelling overseas — for the enterprise.

Beetge was released from jail in Brazil in February 2014 after serving ­five-and-a-half years behind bars. She was sentenced to spend seven years and nine months in prison.

During her time in prison, Beetge had only limited contact with her family on the South Coast.

Read more on:    sheryl cwele  |  pietermaritzburg  |  narcotics

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