‘Cwele unlikely to flee’

2010-02-06 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG high court Judge Sharmaine Balton yesterday granted drug trafficking accused Sheryl Cwele R100 000 bail after ruling that she is unlikely to evade her trial.

The judge found that Cwele (49) has known about the allegations against her since March last year, and was also more recently aware from media reports about the investigation against her and her imminent arrest. Despite this, she had returned to South Africa after holidaying in Mozambique with her family in December, and on the day of her arrest, January 29, had gone to work despite the fact that she’d anticipated her arrest.

Concerning evidence that Cwele has three valid passports (one temporary and two normal) and had not been open with the court in that regard, the judge ruled it was possible that Home Affairs had not recorded her passport as being lost.

Cwele had explained that she had lost her passport, and as a result applied for a temporary passport to travel to Mozambique as well as a permanent passport, which has since been issued, the judge said.

Balton was also concerned that if not released, Cwele could expect to “languish in prison” for up to 18 months before her trial.

This was conceded by state advocate Ian Cooke, who said no “special” arrangments will be made for Cwele ahead of others.

Cwele’s husband, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele — who is alleged by the state to be estranged from his wife — arrived at court yesterday flanked by an entourage of bodyguards.

He sat behind his wife, who did not look round but merely stared ahead, ignoring journalists, television cameramen and photographers snapping her picture.

The couple did not speak to each other publicly.

The bodyguards refused Weekend Witness permission to approach the minister for comment after his wife was granted bail.

The investigating officer in the case, Superintendent Izak Ludick, alleged in an affidavit that Cwele had failed to disclose the fact that she and her husband have lived apart since 2005. “Indeed she told Charmaine (Moss) that the minister had had an extra-marital relationship,” Ludick said.

”From my inquiries surrounding her situation, I am satisfied that she and the minister, though not formally divorced, are separated.”

This was strongly denied by Cwele’s attorney, Mvuseni Ngubane, who told Judge Balton they “do not know where this comes from”.

“It’s a made-up story. It doesn’t exist. The minister is here in court even as we speak,” he told the judge.

Cwele is charged along with Nigerian co-accused Frank Nabolisa (41) with dealing in 9,2 kg of cocaine and of inciting Tessa Beetge and Charmaine Moss to deal in cocaine.

The two will appear in the Pietermaritzburg high court again next Friday when Nabolisa is expected to apply for bail.

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