Cwele trial gets tense

2010-10-14 00:00

SOUTH Coast mother Tessa Beetge, who was allegedly used as a “drug mule” by former neighbour and friend, Sheryl Cwele and Nigerian, Frank Nabolisa, was excited to be setting off on her first overseas trip, her mother testified yesterday.

Marie Swanepoel bit back tears as she recalled that she and her husband (Gert) were unsuspecting and happy that their daughter was going to London — a trip neither of them had undertaken.

They had met with Cwele at her Hibiscus Coast municipal office who assured them they had nothing to worry about.

Cwele said Beetge’s flights would be paid for, she’d be accommodated in a top London hotel, given clothing and earn a thousand pounds doing “admin work”.

Cwele even asked her PA to call “Frank” — who Swanepoel took to be a travel agent — to confirm the arrangements, the court heard.

Prior to her departure from Durban (on May 14, 2008) Cwele gave Beetge a warm (leopard coloured) “good luck” coat to wear and an envelope with R500 to pay for her flight to Johannesburg, said Swanepoel.

Six days later Cwele called to say Tessa had landed safely at “JF Kennedy airport”, but after that when Swanepoel tried to reach Cwele she did not call back.

At midnight on Friday, June 13, 2008, Swanepoel got a call from Beetge to say she was arrested for drug trafficking at Sao Paulo airport.

“Within half-an-hour I called Sheryl to tell her Tessa was arrested … She called me the next morning and said we should await a call from the Brazilian embassy but nothing happened.”

In the period that followed she said she tried to “get answers” from Cwele but her office would not put her through and Cwele did not answer her cellphone.

In September 2008 Swanepoel and her nephew, Richard Olsen, visited Beetge in prison in Brazil.

The prison handed over Beetge’s suitcase — which was different to the one Beetge had left South Africa with — the “lucky coat” from Cwele, three pairs of trousers, three blouses and a pair of shoes. Swanepoel also brought back Beetge’s cellphone along with SIM cards for Colombia, Peru and South Africa.

“There was also a packet with receipts from all the places she had been to and pictures of the hotels where she stayed.”

Swanepoel downloaded and wrote down the SMS messages that were on Beetge’s cellphone, and downloaded e-mails between her and Cwele.

“Between the e-mails and SMS’s you can put two and two together,” she said.

Swanepoel said Cwele had denied knowing Beetge had been in Colombia or Peru.

Cwele’s advocate, Mvuseni Ngubane, suggested in cross examination that Cwele and Beetge had “hatched a plan” to deceive the Swanepoel couple into believing their daughter was going to London because they would not have wanted her to work in Johannesburg.

Cwele, who was trying to help Beetge find work, knew Nabolisa was “rich” and needed girls to sell his products in Johannesburg.


*High court Judge Piet Koen was not satisfied yesterday with a medical certificate handed in on behalf of key state witness Charmaine Moss indicating she would be unfit for “work” until October 29. The certificate did not detail her ailment, understood to be high blood pressure and stress.

Defence advocate Mvuseni Ngubane said if Moss is so ill she should be in hospital.

State advocate Ian Cooke said Moss told him that she would try to complete her evidence sooner if she feels better.

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