Cwele arrest ‘very bad publicity’

2010-02-01 00:00

THE Hibiscus Municipality (Uvongo/Margate) is at sixes and sevens, following the arrest of Sheryl Cwele, wife of Minister of State Security, Siyabonga Cwele.

The scandal is a political hot potato for the government, which has maintained a deafening silence since Friday, and the minister, who is always too busy to comment.

Cwele is the director of health and community services for the Hibuscus Municipality. Municipal spokesman, Simon Soboyisa, said yesterday that Sheryl had been back from her annual leave for barely a day when the Hawks swooped on her.

“It’s a delicate situation and the stories [about her alleged involvement with drugs] have been around for some time. Naturally, something like this is very bad publicity for any organisation,” said Soboyisa.

Hibiscus Municipal Manager, Sbu Mkhize, initially maintained that there is no reason to suspend Cwele, since she has “only been arrested”. He said: “Does that mean she is guilty?”

However, he said later that the local government will discuss the matter this week.

There has been no word at all from the minister himself, since his wife appeared in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday.

An unknown man yesterday answered Siyabonga’s cellphone, saying the minister “is in a meeting”. He referred inquiries to Siyabonga’s spokeswoman. The State Security Department’s media officer, Thabile Mhlamvu, could not comment, as her cellphone is apparently out of order.

The Congress of the People is demanding that the minister resign.

Democratic Alliance MP Theo Coetzee will request that he appear before parliament “so that we can be given the assurance that he is acting in the interests of South Africans and the Constitution and not drug pedlars”.

Senior Superintendent Musa Zondi, spokesman for the Hawks, said Cwele is being held in police cells in Pietermaritzburg and will apply for bail on Friday.

The police have been investigating allegations since 2008 that Cwele and a Nigerian, Frank Nabolis, are involved in drug trafficking, recruiting young white women to bring drugs into the country.

Zondi would not say yesterday whether the Hawks had informed President Jacob Zuma and Siyabonga before carrying out the arrest.

“Ms Cwele was not arrested because of who and what she is, but because we believe she is busy with unlawful things. It is purely coincidental [that she is a minister’s wife].”

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