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Durban - Drug mule Tessa Beetge has been released from a Brazilian prison and is awaiting deportation to South Africa.
The Department of International Relations and Co-operation’s consular services staff broke the news to the former KwaZulu-Natal woman’s aunt, Margie Olsen, by e-mail on Friday. They stated that Beetge had been released on Thursday and that “she is awaiting expulsion” in São Paulo.
Director of Consular Services – Latin America and Caribbean – Mbulelo Bongani said they had no details of the expulsion.
Expulsion, he said, meant that Beetge was being held in a police holding cell in Sao Paulo prior to her being deported. He did not know when this would happen.
Beetge’s elated father, Gert Swanepoel, said he had not known that his daughter was being released.
“I’ve been desperately trying to contact my daughter for the past five weeks and have had no answer,” he said.
He said he would contact the department to confirm the release and make arrangements to pay for her plane ticket if this had not already been done.
Swanepoel said Beetge would stay with a “friend” once in South Africa before she got to see him and her daughters.
Olsen said the stay with the friend, a former fellow inmate in São Paulo, was for her to re-orient herself with life in South Africa.
The family did not want to reveal where the friend lived, because they were afraid that Beetge might be harmed by her former acquaintances in the drug world.
Beetge, formerly of the KZN South Coast, was sentenced to 12 years after being arrested with 10kg of cocaine in her luggage at the São Paulo airport in 2008. Her sentence was later reduced to eight years for good behaviour, and having served five years she was due out on parole.
She had maintained in her TV interview last year with SABC’s Special Assignment that she was duped by her recruiters, Sheryl Cwele, and Nigerian Frank Nabolisa.
The pair are serving 12-year sentences.
Beetge’s mother, Maria Swanepoel, who was instrumental in getting Cwele and Nabolisa convicted, died in October.
In her prison interview with Special Assignment producer, Frank Ferro, Beetge had said she was going back to South Africa to her mother, but that “mom is no longer there”.
Beetge had said: “I have a big fear of going to South Africa because this (prison) is my little world.”
She said her mother had arranged for her to receive counselling, because of the “trauma” she had been through.
She said she was not sure where she was going to in South Africa and that was the part that “frightens” her, because her “heart is ripped up in different directions”.
Beetge said that it had been difficult living without her family, but that it had made her a stronger person.
On her return to South Africa, she had said: “I’m going to be tender, but I’m going to be strong and firm with my family. This is what I’ve understood in the time that I’ve been away and people mustn’t point fingers, mustn’t blame each other. Accept it’s been done and move on.
“Forgiveness is one of the most important things because you need peace and without forgiveness you cannot have peace.”
Beetge said she harboured neither resentment nor bitterness in her heart for Cwele.
“She has inflicted pain, but I cannot hold that against her for the rest of my life. How am I going to live? I need peace. I want to live with my family in peace. I’ve lost my mother who was my pillar. I cannot continue my life thinking I need to look behind me because of the threats that my family have had. I cannot live like that,” she had said.
Beetge said that when an inmate left the prison there was a lot of excitement, but a lot of tears. She explained that the inmates became used to each other and became each other’s support and guidance.
The inmates are, therefore, sad because they know the person will no longer be there, but happy for the inmate regaining freedom.
Said Beetge: “That’s what they all long for.”
Beetge had also said she had been working while in prison.
“It’s a firm that makes medical equipment. They make drips for the hospitals and for the clinics,” she had said.
Beetge first worked in the packing station and was then promoted to the department where she did the paperwork.
She was paid for doing the work and could put an amount aside for future use.
Ferro told the Daily News the circumstances in the São Paulo police cells were very similar to those in South Africa and were overpopulated.
He said Beetge could be held for “up to 40 days” in the holding cell.
The Brazilian federal police had the responsibility to raise funds to buy Beetge a ticket to fly back to South Africa, but if that was not done, Beetge would be released on to the streets of São Paulo, he said.
However, Beetge had said in her TV interview, that she would feel a lot safer in prison than on the outside.
“I do not want to see the streets of Brazil,” she had said.