Cwele found guilty in drug-trafficking case

Sheryl Cwele was on Thursday found guilty on a charge of dealing in drugs, or conspiring to do so, in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

Cwele, the wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, and co-accused Frank Nabolisa, a Nigerian national, faced one count of dealing in dangerous dependence-creating drugs or conspiring to do so, and two counts of incitement to dealing in dangerous dependence-creating drugs. The latter related to allegedly recruiting Tessa Beetge, who is serving an almost eight-year prison sentence in Brazil and Charmaine Moss, another state witness, to traffic cocaine.

Justice Piet Koen earlier found the two accused not guilty on the two charges of incitement to dealing in dangerous drugs as the state had not sufficiently proved the allegations.

Intercepted text messages
The outcome of the trial hung heavily on the state’s submission of intercepted text messages and phone calls between Nabolisa and Beetge, and Nabolisa and Cwele. This, state prosecutor Ian Cooke contended, completed the picture of the collusion between Cwele, Nabolisa and Beetge in alleged preparation for and during the latter’s 2008 drug run to South America.


The contents of the intercepted calls and text messages were, according to Koen “one of the main controversial issues of the trial”.

The defence teams for both accused had separately attacked the veracity of the transcripts during the trial, suggesting, especially, that the procedures and functionality of the equipment used to record and transcribe the communications could not be authenticated—a contention that led to a remarkable attempt by the state to this week have the case reopened so that expert witnesses could testify on these issues.

The state’s urgent application was dismissed by Koen, who concurred with the defence’s objection that it was “obstinate”.

Koen, in a ruling critical of the state’s ineptitude, said: “There is no indication that the two witnesses [which the prosecution sought to introduce] were not available at the time when the evidence was being advanced in court. There is no satisfactory explanation advanced as to why they were not called at the time.”

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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