Family face R250 000 headache

2012-06-19 00:00

THE Eastern Cape family of convicted drug mule Nolubabalo “Babsie” Nobanda have to try to raise about R250 000 so she doesn’t have to serve an extra two years’ jail in Thailand.

Nobanda was yesterday sentenced to a 15-year jail term and a fine of about R250 000, which was halved from 30 years and R500 000 because she co-operated with Thai authorities and pleaded guilty.

If she is unable to pay the fine, it will be converted to two years added to her sentence.

South African ambassador in Bangkok Ruby Marks said the Nobanda family could pay the fine now or raise the money while Nobanda is serving her sentence.

Marks said the embassy would continue to visit her and render consular services.

Nobanda was represented by a Bangkok state lawyer.

Family spokesperson advocate Ntsikelelo Sandi visited Thailand in March and assisted the lawyer in taking a statement from Nobanda.

“I worked with the Thai state-appointed lawyer to put together a sworn statement from her [Nobanda], and this was because language was a barrier to fair presentation on her side,” said Sandi.

He said it was a relief that Nobanda had been sentenced to 15 years.

“The family has been spending sleepless nights since this whole thing started. Worse was the possibility of their daughter facing life imprisonment in a foreign jail. This was a narrow escape for her given the harsh laws on drug smuggling in that country,” said Sandi.

He confirmed that Nobanda’s mother, Honjiswa Mbewu, had cancelled her trip to Bangkok due to health reasons.

He said he had also heard about the threats posed by the alleged syndicate who had lured her daughter into the mess.

“I haven’t spoken to her about this, but the family will meet and look at how to handle the situation. It’s too soon to tell what the next step will be,” he said.

In December family and friends of Nobanda set up a bank account to raise R25 000 for her mother, Mbewu, to visit her at Christmas. Family friend Johan Conradie was in charge of the account.

Yesterday he would not comment on the account, asking the reporter to phone him today.

Nobanda, of Grahamstown, was arrested at Bangkok International Airport in December for trying to smuggle cocaine from Brazil to Thailand.

Police found 1,5 kg of powder containing cocaine with an estimated street value of R1,2 million in her dreadlocks.

In a sworn statement presented to court, Nobandla pleaded guilty to the charge of smuggling 600 grams of cocaine into Thailand. The rest of the powder was not cocaine.

She said she did not know the weight and the type of drugs she was carrying.

She claimed that she was made to believe that she was flying to Brazil with a friend from Grahamstown to fetch hair chemicals which they would be selling back in South Africa.

Things changed when they arrived in Brazil to be told by a certain woman that they would be transporting drugs to Thailand, read the statement.

Nobanda was unlikely to be given parole, said a consular officer in the Royal Thai Embassy, Issara Patthamasukhon.

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