Sunday, May 8, 2011

Minister's Wife Jailed But Still Has Her Job

May 8, 2011

'No decision has been made ... she can come to work'

Convicted drug dealer Sheryl Cwele still has her job - despite being sentenced to 12 years behind bars on Friday. 


Cwele, the wife of state security boss Siyabonga Cwele, and her co-accused, Nigerian Frank Nabolisa, 42, were both found guilty of drug dealing just two years after the Sunday Times exposed her role in recruiting drug mules in an international syndicate. 

They were found guilty of recruiting Tessa Beetge and beauty therapist Charmaine Moss - who declined the job - in 2008. 

A series of SMSes and e-mails between Beetge and Cwele, 50, eventually led to this week's dramatic judgment. 

The conviction comes in the wake of Beetge writing a tell-all book in prison. 

Caught red-handed in Sao Paulo with 10kg of raw cocaine in her luggage three years ago, she was sentenced to seven years and nine months in a Brazilian jail . 

Cwele, a mother of four, is the director of health and community services of the Hibiscus Coast municipality on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast. 

She was granted leave to attend her trial in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg. 

When asked whether she would be allowed back at work, given her conviction, the municipality's spokesman, Simon Soboyisa, said: "No decision has been made. For now, she can come to work and we'll take it from there." 

During sentencing, it emerged that Cwele was paid a net salary of R29000 a month and co-owned a R1.2-million home on the South Coast. 

The well-groomed Cwele and Nabolisa have been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein. 

Cwele's bail of R100000 was extended pending the outcome. 

Nabolisa will return to custody, where he has been since his arrest in December 2009. 
In July, he will face other drug-related charges in the Wynberg Magistrates' Court in Johannesburg. 

The minister - who was a no-show during his wife's trial - has maintained a stony silence. 

His spokesman, Brian Dube, said: "He is not in a position (to comment) at this stage. The minister will comment at an appropriate time." 

In his 123-page judgment, Judge Piet Koen described Cwele's defence that she was merely trying to help desperate women as "false". 

In mitigation of sentence, Cwele's attorney, Mvuseni Ngubane, described her as a "learned person" from a stable family. He said the former nurse had been punished enough by the media. 

Said Koen: "Many families are affected by drugs which are brought here illegally. They suffer as a result of dealers, who often initiate addiction by constant supply and thrive on that addiction."
The judge said he had been lenient with the sentence - which carries a minimum of 15 years' imprisonment - because Cwele and Nabolisa were first-time offenders . 

After sentencing, Cwele and her family formed a prayer circle outside the courtroom.
Smartly dressed in a knee-length black-and-white shift dress, Cwele said: "I have nothing to say." 

Beetge's parents, Marie and Gert Swanepoel, welcomed the sentence, saying it was the "best birthday present" for their daughter, who turns 34 tomorrow. 

Her fathersaid he was helping Tessa document the trial for her book, in which she will reveal how she was recruited and tell of her life behind bars. 

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