‘Mule’ accuses Cwele

2010-11-03 00:00

TESSA Beetge has denied being a drug trafficker and has implicated key defendants in a trial that is ongoing in the high court in Pietermaritzburg.

Yesterday evening, SABC’s Special Assignment broadcast for the first time a 2009 interview with Beetge, who is in a women’s jail in Sao Paulo, Brazil, after being convicted as a drug mule.

She was dressed in a white vest. She appeared healthy, but her hair showed signs of neglect.

Beetge, who said she seldom gets to speak English in prison, was clearly in an upbeat mood to be communicating to someone in her own language.

In the interview, Beetge said that she felt hurt and betrayed when bags of cocaine were discovered in her bag at Sao Paulo International Airport.

“If those people [Frank Nabilisa and Sheryl Cwele] were in front of me I would have liked to have hit them,” said Beetge.

“She didn’t just lie to me but to my whole family.”

The state alleges that Cwele and Nigerian national Nabolisa conspired to recruit Beetge and Charmaine Moss as drug mules.

Cwele was granted R100 000 bail on February 5. Nabolisa was denied bail because the court considers him a flight risk. The trial has been adjourned until December 13.

Beetge said Cwele, the wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, had recruited her.

She insisted that Cwele is the one who had arranged the trip for her to go to Brazil to collect drugs.

“Whatever Sheryl has done, she will have to face her consequences.”

Beetge added that her opinion of Cwele has changed drastically since the incident.

“I used to think of her as a well-respected person from society,” said Beetge. “She was like an aunty to my kids; my kids used to play with her kids. I trusted her.”

Speaking of her time in prison, Beetge acknowledged that it has been tough. “I’m not able to speak much Portugese so they don’t give me much.”

At her home in Fish Hoek, Beetge’s mother, Marie Swanepoel, drank in every word of her daughter’s broadcast.

During the 30-minute broadcast she cried, laughed and at the end said she was so grateful Tessa was still alive.

“She got a bed at long last, after sleeping on the floor all this time,” said Swanepoel.

While Tessa told her story, Swanepoel commented on the events leading up to the case and how it has touched the family.

Beetge has two daughters in South Africa.

Swanepoel became emotional when she spoke of how proud she is of her daughter, although he still cries herself to sleep every night.

“I am very glad I can see my daughter tonight — even if only on the screen. I know she is frustrated and stressed.”

Beetge, whose sentence was suspended by a year, has still to serve six years, 90 months and 20 days.

Swanepoel said, “I am only concerned about her health, nothing else, because I know my daughter and know she did nothing wrong.”

Beetge has asthma and struggles to obtain medication in the prison.

The interview was conducted inside the prison with the permission of the prison authorities.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had reservations about Special Assignment broadcasting the interview.

“Obviously we have reservations about the planned broadcast, as its contents may have a bearing on the case that is sub judice,” NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga told Sapa yesterday.

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