Cwele recruited my daughter, mother tells court

Tessa Beetge, the KwaZulu-Natal woman imprisoned in Brazil for drug trafficking, was recruited by the wife of the state security minister, the Pietermaritzburg High Court heard on Wednesday.

“Sheryl Cwele [the wife of Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cwele] sent her [Beetge] a cellphone text message telling her about the job overseas,” Beetge’s mother, Marie Swanepoel, told the court.

She was testifying on the third day of the drug-trafficking trial of Cwele and Nigerian national Frank Nabolisa.

Swanepoel told the court how excited her daughter was when Cwele allegedly organised an overseas job for her, which would see her getting free travel, free accommodation, free clothing and £1 000.

Swanepoel said that during a meeting at Cwele’s office at the Hibiscus Coast Municipality in the Uvongo area, her daughter had been told she would work in London.

Cwele allegedly told Beetge and Swanepoel that she had decided to organise the job for Beetge because she was tired of travelling overseas.

Beetge had been picked up at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg by Nabolisa and his wife, only identified as Nomsa, she said. Cwele had allegedly given Beetge R500 for the air ticket from Durban International Airport to Johannesburg.

“She was very excited. It was her first trip out of the country.
She took it as an opportunity to see the world.”

Drug mules
Beetge left the country on May 20 2008, the court heard.

“When she left South Africa she landed at JF Kennedy Airport, and she moved to Peru,” Swanepoel said.

She said her daughter had contacted her after her arrest in Brazil. It was not revealed in court how she ended up in Brazil.

Beetge was supposed to come back on June 4 2008, but she did not because she was always told that the planes were full, said Swanepoel.

“She told me that she was getting different excuses.”

The state alleges that Cwele and Nabolisa conspired to recruit Charmaine Moss and 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 faced 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.

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

Swanepoel told the court she had decided to take the story about her daughter’s arrest to the Sunday Times after she got no joy from the now-defunct Scorpions nor the police.

She said she had reported her daughter’s arrest in Cape Town because she felt she would not get the necessary assistance in Margate because the police there knew Cwele.

‘It raises a lot of questions’
Moss did not arrive in court again on Wednesday. This after the trial could not continue on Tuesday because she was in a poor emotional state.

She testified on Monday, but told the state of Tuesday she was in a poor emotional state. The nature of her problem was not divulged.

She was supposed to be cross-examined by Cwele’s counsel, Mvuseni Ngubane.

She faxed a doctor’s letter to the court on Wednesday morning, which stated that she would not be available until October 29.

Ngubane reacted angrily to the letter, saying it was very unsatisfactory.

“It raises a lot of questions. If the witness was that ill, she would have been admitted in hospital,” he said.—Sapa

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