Cwele’s mixed fortunes

2010-12-14 00:00

ALLEGED South Coast drug mule Tessa Beetge will not be allowed to testify via the Internet video phone link, Skype, from Brazil in the trial of Sheryl Cwele and Frank Nabolisa.

The pair are charged with inciting Beetge to deal in cocaine between May and June 2008.

It emerged yesterday that there is still a question mark over whether Charmaine Moss, whom they also allegedly attempted to recruit to carry drugs, will be fit enough to resume her testimony.

State advocate Ian Cooke said on the eve of the trial’s resumption that he was faxed a certificate indicating that Moss is suffering from severe depression.

However, the state did succeed yesterday in its earlier application to introduce as evidence intercepted cellphone calls between Cwele, Nabolisa, Beetge and others at the relevant time.

The transcripts of the calls will be handed in at the court only today, which is when the contents can be made public.

According to the state’s submissions, the contents of the calls are regarded as vital to the prosecution case and provide a detailed picture of what went on.

Announcing his ruling yesterday, Judge Piet Koen said he will give reasons for his decision at the end of the case.

He will also give his reasons later for his decision to dismiss the state’s application yesterday to call Beetge as a witness via a Skype link.

Cwele and Nabolisa are charged with dealing in the 10-plus kilograms of cocaine that were seized in Beetge’s luggage at Sao Paulo airport on June 13, 2008, and with having incited both Beetge and Moss to deal in drugs.

Beetge is serving a sentence of seven years and nine months in Brazil.

Before she fell ill, Moss testified that she was recruited by Cwele to work overseas and claimed Cwele referred to Nabolisa as her “brother”.

She opted out of the plan in Johannesburg after becoming nervous and after an incident when Nabolisa allegedly slapped her, telling her she was “asking too many questions”. She had been due to fly to Turkey the next day.

Yesterday’s long-awaited application by Ian Cooke to call Beetge as a witness via a Skype link was vigorously opposed by advocate Mvuseni Ngubane for Cwele and advocate Koos van Vuuren SC for Nabolisa.

They raised numerous objections, including the practical difficulties of taking the evidence of a witness on foreign soil where the high court in Pietermaritzburg has no jurisdiction.

The state did not apply for Beetge’s evidence to be taken on commission in Brazil, as has been the norm in other high-profile trials to date. It is unclear whether the prosecution can — or might consider — doing so in the future, or whether yesterday’s ruling will be the final word on this issue.


High Court Judge Piet Koen yesterday stated that he did not see the interview with Tessa Beetge in prison which was televised recently by Special Assignment. However he is “looking into it” and intends asking the director of public prosecutions to consider if its transmission (during the trial) amounted to a criminal offence, he said. He was

responding to a submission by Advocate Ngubane who said the programme went on air in spite of his objections to it.

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