The family of a South African woman on holiday in Indonesia, were first told by two mystery callers that she had died there.
Only when the Department of International Relations and Co-operation phoned Margaret Preston, did she find out that her daughter, Donya Preston, 22, and a 20-year-old unknown man had been arrested and charged with drug trafficking in Indonesia on Tuesday.
Margaret, of Kroonstad in the Free State, said on Thursday that the trip to Indonesia had been her daughter’s first international one – but she had not told her family before leaving.
“I don’t know where this call [to say Donya was dead] came from, but the number was blocked. Actually, there were two calls. The first caller said that she was dead [in that country], and the second had said that she had killed herself.”
Later the family received a call from the Department of International Relations informing them of the arrest.
“My daughter is not like that, you know. That’s not how she was brought up. We are a close family,” said the distraught mother.
Nelson Kgwete, a Department of International Relations spokesman, said that the South African Embassy in Jakarta, and Indonesian authorities, had already made contact with the two South Africans. “We are providing them with consular services. They are in police custody.”
Sapa reported on Thursday that the pair were arrested at Manando International Airport in Indonesia and were facing the death penalty after they were arrested with 6kg of crystal meth, also called tik.
Preston’s mother said she did not know where to turn.
“Nobody has told me anything. I’m here in Pretoria with my brother now, going from the Indonesian Embassy to other international offices, trying to sort this out,” Preston said.
She said that Donya was a “quiet girl”, who preferred watching TV to going out.
“She had been living in Meyerton for the past five months with friends of ours – she had left home because she had a job there [at the local Pick n Pay],” she said.
She said the family was taking the situation very badly.
“We are worried sick about her. Her brother and sister and my husband are all hoping and praying that she comes home soon,” she said.
She said that she and the family were trying to raise R260 000 for a lawyer for her daughter.
Director of Locked Up, a George-based organisation formed to help families of South Africans incarcerated overseas, Patricia Gerber, said that South Africans getting arrested overseas was not something new – and was a trend that was likely to continue.
“Not a month goes by when we don’t get word that a South African has been arrested somewhere.
“It is out of control, and the people who do get arrested are usually very young,” said Gerber, whose own son had been sentenced to nine years in prison in Mauritius for drug importation.
He has since served seven years of his sentence.
“I know what these families are going through, because I have been battling to get our people back here everyday – I’m not justifying what they did, but they do deserve to face the consequences here in their own country,” she said.
She said that most of the crimes originated in South Africa, so they needed to be investigated by local and national authorities.