Insure your car, home and valuables with iWYZE
The State is preparing to challenge convicted cocaine traffickers Sheryl Cwele’s and Frank Nabolisa’s appeal against their conviction and 12-year sentence, arguing for it to be increased to 20 years.
State advocate Ian Cooke had initially submitted that the pair got lighter sentences than they deserved, and should instead receive the minimum 15 years prescribed by law.
Now, after a new Supreme Court of Appeal judgment in another case relevant to the appeal by Cwele and Nabolisa, Cooke will push for an even tougher punishment on August 16, when their appeal is expected to be heard.
Cooke filed supplementary papers before the Supreme Court of Appeal this week in which he argues for a higher sentence to be imposed on the drug trafficking duo – should the conviction stand.
The judgment Cooke is relying on to back up his argument was handed down on May 25 in the matter of Heinrich Keyser versus the State.
The judgment stresses the gravity of international trafficking by the use of “mules” whlo attempt to import cocaine in their luggage from abroad.
Cooke will submit that Cwele and Nabolisa’s actions were more serious.
“The mass of cocaine was greater in this case, and they (Cwele and Nabolisa) were the organisers of the crime,” he said in court papers. “Their moral reprehensibility far exceeds that of the ‘mules’.”
In papers opposing the appeal, Cooke submitted that in the case of Cwele in particular, the State believed there were aggravating circumstances that necessitated a harsher sentence – including that she was trained as a nurse and knew the dangers of hard drugs, as well as the fact that she had used government offices to commit the crime.
At the time of her conviction and sentence, Cwele was the Hibiscus Coast Municipality’s director for health and community services. She was also the wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, but the couple divorced on August 23, three months after she was sentenced.
Cooke submitted that Cwele and Nabolisa were correctly convicted based on all the evidence.
In written arguments on behalf of Cwele, Advocate Kemp J Kemp, SC, said the evidence may well have established that when Cwele arranged for two young women (Tessa Beetge and Charmaine Moss) to travel overseas in 2008, she knew it was to serve a “nefarious and unlawful purpose”.
However, he said there was no evidence Cwele knew it was to bring back cocaine and serve as drug mules for Nabolisa.
The fact that “one woman” (Beetge) was arrested in transit to South Africa with cocaine concealed in her luggage was not sufficient proof that she had guilty knowledge in that regard, he said.
“There was no evidence that the appellant (Cwele) dabbled in the drug trade or which connects her to such trade where such connection indicates knowledge.
“A not guilty verdict should follow,” said Kemp.
Advocate Koos van Vuuren, SC, submitted on behalf of Nabolisa that the trial court had incorrectly drawn inferences from circumstantial evidence. It also wrongly found that Nabolisa was the “main perpetrator” in the commission of the offence, he said.
He further said the sentence imposed on Nabolisa was severe and did not adequately take into account the fact that Nabolisa had spent 15 months in custody awaiting trial.
Cwele is currently out on bail of R100 000, while Nabolisa is in prison.