Key witness to testify in Cwele case

2011-03-07 00:00

THE drug trafficking trial of Sheryl Cwele (49) and Nigerian Frank Nabolisa (42) resumes in Ramsgate today with the state hoping to complete the testimony of a key witness.

The case has been transferred from Pietermaritzburg to Cwele’s home ground on the South Coast.

Cwele is the wife of national State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele and is an employee of the Hibiscus Coast Municipality.

It is expected that the trial will be finalised within two weeks.

There are still some loose ends, which will be dealt with by state advocate Ian Cooke before he closes the case for the prosecution. They include the outstanding testimony by an alleged recruit of the two accused, Charmaine Moss, who suffered stress-related illnesses before she finished her evidence last year.

Moss claimed in evidence that Cwele approached her with a job offer overseas, but said she pulled out in Johannesburg. She said she became uneasy after Nabolisa had hit her and told her she was asking too many questions. She was due to fly to Turkey the following day.

The defence has not yet completed its cross-examination of Moss, who suffered from depression, hypertension and stress.

The state is expected to hand in transcripts of intercepted cellphone calls between Cwele, Nabolisa, alleged South Coast drug mule Tessa Beetge and others.

The state has argued that these will prove a vital link between the accused and Beetge, who was arrested at Brazil’s Sao Paulo airport with about 10 kilograms of cocaine concealed in her luggage on June 13, 2008.

Judge Piet Koen has already ruled that Beetge herself will not be allowed to give evidence via a Skype link from the Brazilian jail where she is serving a sentence of seven years and nine months.

The ruling was given after the defence raised objections concerning the practical difficulties of taking evidence from a state witness on foreign soil where the South Africa court has no jurisdiction.

The judge indicated before making the ruling that he had not seen a television interview with Beetge aired by Special Assignment last year.

However, he said he intended asking the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider if the broadcast in the middle of the trial amounted to “a criminal offence”.

Cwele is on R100 000 bail pending the outcome of the trial; Nabolisa is in custody.

He was refused bail on grounds that he is a flight risk. Evidence was led at his bail hearing last year that he had secretly entered and left South Africa on various occasions, allegedly possesses false travel documents and owes the SA Revenue Service millions of rands in undeclared taxes.

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