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Due to a recent judgment which emphasizes the gravity of international trafficking by the use of “mules” to import cocaine from abroad, Sheryl Cwele and Frank Nabolisa’s sentence should be increased to 20 years and not 15 years as initially stated.
This was the latest view of State advocate Ian Cooke in his supplementary heads of argument to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein which were filed yesterday, ahead of the appeal which takes place on August 16.
The cocaine traffickers, Cwele and Nabolisa, will be appealing against their conviction and sentence. In May last year when Cwele was found guilty of drug trafficking, she was employed as the Hibiscus Coast municipality’s director for health and community services, but was fired a few months after her conviction.
She was also the wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele until their divorce on August 23, last year. Cwele and Nabolisa were linked to South African drug mule, Tessa Beetge, who was arrested and imprisoned in Sao Paulo, Brazil, for drug trafficking in 2008. Beetge is still serving an eight-year jail term in Sao Paulo.
Cooke submitted that since his previous submission that the pair be sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment, the appeal court had delivered a judgment which was most pertinent to the present appeal, particularly insofar as the sentence is concerned.
“This judgment stresses the gravity of international trafficking, by the use of ‘mules’ to import cocaine (in their luggage) from abroad. The present appellants’ situation is indeed the more serious. The mass of cocaine was greater… and they were the organisers of the crime. Their moral reprehensibility far exceeds that of the ‘mules’,” he said.
Previously, Cooke had argued in court papers opposing the appeals filed on behalf of the convicted pair that in the case of Cwele in particular, the State believes that there are aggravating circumstances that necessitate a harsher sentence, including that she was a nurse and knew the dangers of hard drugs, as well as that she had used government offices to commit the crime.
Regarding Nabolisa, Cooke said the time he had spent awaiting his trial was self-inflicted and ought not to result in him benefiting.
In written arguments on behalf of Cwele, advocate Kemp J Kemp, SC, said the evidence might 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.
Advocate Koos van Vuuren, SC, submitted on behalf of Nabolisa that the trial court incorrectly drew inferences from circumstantial evidence. It also wrongly found that Nabolisa was the “main perpetrator” in the commission of the offence, he said.