Judge: Cwele clearly guilty
Pietermaritzburg - Sheryl Cwele, the wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, was found guilty of drug trafficking by the KwaZulu-Natal High Court on Thursday.
Judge Piet Koen said it was clear that Cwele and her co-accused Nigerian Frank Nabolisa had worked together to recruit two women to work as agents to transport drugs.
The two had pleaded not guilty to dealing or conspiring to deal in drugs, procuring a woman called Charmaine Moss to collect drugs in Turkey, and procuring another woman, Tessa Beetge, to smuggle cocaine from South America.
Beetge, of the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, was arrested when 10kg of cocaine was found in her luggage in Brazil in 2008, and is serving a jail sentence in Sao Paolo.
R25 000 payment promised
Moss, who was told to go overseas and pick up a parcel with unspecified contents, turned down the offer when she suspected something was amiss. She turned State's witness.
Cwele promised them a salary of R25 000 for two weeks’ work.
Cwele’s defence contended that the women were recruited because Nabolisa needed white people to work for his company in Johannesburg.
However, Koen ruled that there was no way Cwele did not know the kind of work the two women would do as she was deeply involved in the travel arrangements.
He also questioned how the women could earn R25 000 each when they had no qualifications for the jobs they were promised.
Koen questioned why Cwele had requested their passports if she did not know they were going overseas.
There was also a talk of visas during arrangements for the trip, Koen said.
"Why would she be so concerned with travel arrangements if she was not involved?" he asked.
Koen earlier turned down the State's application to reopen its case so it could call new witnesses to the stand.
Koen said no satisfactory reasons had been given as to why these witnesses were not called during the trial.
The court used mainly cellphone SMSes and e-mails between Beetge and Cwele to reach its conclusion.
Bundles of intercepted calls were not used as the State failed to convince the court how they were intercepted. They were also riddled with typing errors.
The case was postponed until Friday for sentencing.