A look into SA's relationship with drug trafficking

Johannesburg - South Africa is the regional hub for drug trafficking, according to the United Nations office on drugs and crime.

Scores of South Africans have found themselves locked up in foreign lands after being caught smuggling illegal substances across the borders.

Here are some examples:

- In the latest incident, 29-year-old Deon Cornelius, who was arrested for drug smuggling in Malaysia two years ago, lost his appeal on Thursday against his death penalty conviction. He was arrested after he was found in possession of a laptop bag containing 2kg of methamphetamine when he landed at Penang International Airport on October 4, 2013. Cornelius claimed to have been handed the bag by a man in Penang.

- A South African woman, whose identity was not immediately clear, was arrested in India on suspicion of drug trafficking last month. She allegedly claimed to be seven months pregnant but officials found that her bulging stomach was not because of a baby but due to cocaine capsules, weighing almost a kilogram, which she had swallowed. It was unclear what had since happened with her case. 

- Foreign media reported that a South African was among three people who were arrested at the Tbilisi International Airport for allegedly bringing large quantities of drugs into Georgia. The group was alleged to have been caught with 4kg of cocaine and 14kg of marijuana. This had been the second South African to be arrested at the same airport for drug smuggling within a number of days.

- Also in September, Kenyan media reported that a South African woman had been caught with cocaine weighing almost 4kg in a hidden compartment in her suitcase. The woman's passport revealed that she had travelled from Sao Paolo, Brazil and flew to Addis Ababa before connecting to Nairobi. Police said she had intended to take a connecting flight to South Africa.

It was understood that over 230 South Africans had in the last financial year been arrested in foreign countries for drug smuggling. The country has however, made a few breakthroughs of its own and arrested drug smugglers bringing their illicit substances into the country:

- In one of the latest drug busts, Ottilia Mmatjatji Malatj, believed to be an extra on a local soapie, was arrested on Sunday after she allegedly tried to smuggle drugs worth R4.6m. The 29-year-old appeared in the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court and her case was postponed to October 7. It is understood that she had allegedly brought in the shipment from Abu Dhabi.

- In September, a woman was caught with tik worth over R1m at Cape Town International Airport. The drugs were found wrapped in a fleece baby blanket in her suitcase. The woman had just landed in Cape Town from Johannesburg.

- South African police officer, Sergeant Busisiwe Zungu was arrested earlier this year in Hong Kong for allegedly trafficking drugs. It was unclear what type of drugs she had been caught with but it was understood that she had since been released and had returned to the country.

Other South Africans who have in the past found themselves in hot water for drug smuggling in foreign countries have not been so fortunate. In 2011, Janice Bronwyn Linden, who had been caught in possession of drugs in China, was executed. The 35-year-old had been arrested in 2008 and was found in possession of 3kg of crystal methamphetamine (tik) in her luggage. She was convicted of drug smuggling in 2009.

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