Mom tells how daughter was recruited as a drug mule

2010-10-13 11:07

Tessa Beetge, the KwaZulu-Natal woman imprisoned in Brazil for drug trafficking, was recruited by the wife of the state security minister, the Pietermaritzburg High Court heard today.

“Sheryl Cwele [the wife of Minister Siyabonga Cwele] sent her a cellphone text message telling her about the job overseas,” Beetge’s mother, Marie Swanepoel, told the court.

She was testifying on the third day of the drug trafficking trial against Cwele and Nigerian national, Frank Nabolisa.

Swanepoel told the court how excited her daughter was when Cwele allegedly organised an overseas job for her which would see her getting free travel, free accommodation, free clothing and £1 000 (about R10 852).

She said her daughter had been told she would work in London.

Beetge had been picked up at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg by Nabolisa, she said.

“She was very excited. It was her first trip out of the country. She took it as an opportunity to see the world,” she said.

Beetge left the country on May 20, 2008, the court heard.

“When she left South Africa she landed in JF Kennedy Airport and she moved to Peru,” she said.

Beetge was supposed to come back on June 4, 2008, but she did not.

Swanepoel said her daughter had contacted her after her arrest in Brazil.

Swanepoel was expected to be cross-examined after the tea break.

The state alleged that Cwele and Nabolisa conspired to recruit Charmaine Moss and Beetge as drug mules. Beetge was serving an eight-year jail sentence in Sao Paulo, Brazil, after 10kg of raw cocaine was found in her luggage.

Cwele and Nabolisa were arrested in January and faced three charges, dealing or conspiring to deal in drugs; procuring Moss to collect drugs in Turkey; and procuring Beetge to smuggle 10kg of cocaine from South America.

Cwele was granted R100 000 bail on February 5. Nabolisa was denied bail because the court considered him a flight risk.

Moss did not arrive in court again on today.

The trial could not continue yesterday because Moss was in a poor emotional state.

She testified on Monday but told the state yesterday she was in a poor emotional state. The nature of her problem was not divulged.

She was supposed to be cross-examined by Cwele’s counsel Mvuseni Ngubane.

She faxed a doctor’s letter to the court on Wednesday morning which stated that she would not be available until October 29.

Ngubane reacted angrily to the letter, saying it was very unsatisfactory.

“It raises a lot of questions. If the witness was that ill, she would have been admitted in hospital,” he said.

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