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Cwele drugs-trial witness 'in poor emotional state'

Bongani Mthembu

The drug-trafficking trial of the state security minister's wife could not continue on Tuesday because a state witness was in a poor emotional state.

The drug-trafficking trial of the state security minister’s wife and a Nigerian national could not continue because a state witness was in a poor emotional state, the Pietermaritzburg High Court heard on Tuesday.

The case against Frank Nabolisa and Sheryl Cwele (42), wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, began on Monday.

Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

Cwele and Nabolisa allegedly conspired to recruit Charmaine Moss and Tessa Beetge as drug mules. Beetge is currently serving an eight-year jail sentence in São Paulo, Brazil, after 10kg of raw cocaine was found in her luggage.

Cwele and Nabolisa were arrested in January and face three charges—dealing or conspiring to deal in drugs; procuring Moss to collect drugs in Turkey; and procuring Beetge to smuggle 10kg of cocaine from South America. Beetge was allegedly promised a job in London, but was sent to Brazil where she was arrested.

Cwele was granted R100 000 bail on February 5. Nabolisa was denied bail because the court considered him a flight risk.

Turned down job offer
Testifying in court on Monday, state witness Moss described how she was allegedly recruited by Cwele to work overseas. She met Nabolisa in Johannesburg during preparations for her trip.

She allegedly later turned down the job offer.

Moss, a professional beauty therapist and former police officer, told the court she met Cwele in 2005 when they both took their children to a choir performance on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast.

They lost contact and then “bumped” into each other in 2007 at a shopping centre, where Cwele told Moss about a job opportunity overseas. She would be a beauty therapist or a caregiver and earn R25 000 in two weeks, the court heard.

Moss decided against taking the offer when she became suspicious after Cwele told her about Nabolisa, who was described as an agent who organised overseas jobs.

‘Visibly shaken’
On Tuesday State advocate Ian Cooke told the court that Moss could not testify on the day. “The witness’s friend came to me this morning and said that Moss is in a poor emotional state. I then saw Moss and she was visibly shaken and not in a position to continue with the cross-examination.”

Cooke asked for an adjournment until Wednesday so that Moss could compose herself.

Cwele’s advocate, Mvuseni Ngubane, and Nabolisa’s advocate, Koos van Vuuren, did not oppose the adjournment.

Cwele arrived in a stylish suit and accompanied by two women. Minister Siyabonga Cwele, who was in court during his wife’s bail application in February, was not in court on Tuesday.—Sapa

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