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Durban - Convicted drug dealer Sheryl Cwele says she is “sorry” her drug mule ended up in prison in Brazil and now wants to patch things up with the woman’s mother.
Cwele said on Thursday she would like to meet with Marie Swanepoel, whose daughter, Tessa Beetge, is serving out her eight-year sentence in Brazil, where she was found in possession of cocaine in 2008.
Interviewed at Westville Prison during a Women in Dialogue event on Thursday, Cwele also said she was now closer to God, and was planning for her future by studying to become a clinical psychologist.
First lady Bongi Ngema-Zuma, a guest speaker at the event, motivated prisoners to prepare for their futures.
Approached for comment on Thursday in the Eastern Cape, where she lives after moving from the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, Swanepoel said she “might” be willing to meet with Cwele.
“It’s all fine for Sheryl to have strong faith, but a person with strong faith doesn’t do what she did to Tessa,” she said.
“If you are a person of God, you don’t do what she did to Tessa.”
The former wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele said she had signed up for the Department of Correctional Services’ victim/offender dialogue programme in the hope of meeting Swanepoel, to whom she would say: “Everything happens for a reason and God loves you, I love Tessa. I have loved Tessa all my life and I don’t think you knew how close me and Tessa were (sic).
“I feel sorry for what happened to Tessa. I also feel sorry for her kids.”
Cwele said she would like nothing more than to reach out to Swanepoel, because at some stage she had been close to Tessa and her family.
Cwele and her accomplice, Frank Nabolisa, were convicted in May 2011 of drug dealing by the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
The pair had recruited Beetge and another woman, Charmaine Moss, to transport drugs.
While Moss turned down the assignment, Beetge accepted and was arrested in Brazil.
Cwele and Nabolisa took their convictions on appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal, but lost. The court increased their sentences from 12 to 20 years.
Last month, Cwele successfully applied to the Constitutional Court to have the sentence reduced and now it is back to 12 years.
The same court ruled similarly in Nabolisa’s favour in July.
Cwele said her incarceration had given her time for introspection. “Of course, I miss my mother, I miss my children, I miss everyone I love on the outside,” she said.
“I talked to my kids and told them to think of time here as time away from them to be in boarding school and be with God.”
She said it was her Christian faith that kept her strong in prison and the other inmates had made her feel welcome. She felt like God had answered her prayers when her sentence was reduced, she said.
“I was initially shocked at the 12-year sentence. In fact, I was even shocked at my arrest. I was shocked because I didn’t even touch and handle the drugs,” she said.
Cwele said she had enrolled in a psychology programme with the University of Johannesburg and was planning a career in clinical psychology.
“I have fallen in love with the prisoners - talking to them and hearing their stories,” she said.
“I want to come back after I leave to give back to the prison.”
Swanepoel said she had received an e-mail from her daughter last week.
“Tessa said she was tired of being there, and feels the whole situation has been unfair on her being there for a crime she didn’t do,” she said, adding that she had replied to the e-mail, but didn’t know if it had been received.
“Tessa is having a harder time in prison there than the two here,” she said, referring to Cwele and Nabolisa.