Johannesburg - They’re both young, South African and on death row. That’s why Deon Cornelius and Letitia Bosman have become firm friends who write to each other from their prison cells in Malaysia.
On Thursday, Cornelius, 29, lost his appeal to have his death sentence overturned, following his conviction in January. The former security guard now faces execution by hanging, having been convicted of smuggling 2kg of methamphetamines into Penang International Airport in 2013. Bosman, 24, of Pretoria, was convicted on drug charges in 2013 and sentenced to death in February this year.
Cornelius family spokesperson, Gert Cornelius, who lives in Alberton, told the Saturday Star: “Letitia and Deon write letters to each other. All the people who are in jail overseas chat to each other (and) the people who help us in Malaysia, hook Letitia and Deon up through their letters.”
His family is devastated that the appeal was thrown out. “What can we do? This is another country with its own laws.” Gert last spoke to Deon three weeks ago: “He told me he was doing fine, and that we mustn’t be negative. But since the news broke on Thursday, we’re not sure how he’s doing.”
Gert said he’d made peace with the likelihood of his nephew being executed, but his mother and sisters hadn’t. “I’ve googled what happens to people convicted of drug crimes in Malaysia and it doesn’t look good. They have no mercy.”
The Department of International Relations (Dirco), he claimed, “just give us the run-around and haven’t assisted us since 2013. It’s a disgrace; not helping our people overseas..
“We’ve saved our money and even sold our stuff to go there, but Dirco has refused, and said we can’t get visitation rights.”
Bosman’s mum, Elsie, 58, said Letitia still had three appeal hearings but can’t find a lawyer to represent her. “My daughter has worked out that if her appeal is successful, she will be out by 2027. Then, I’ll be 70 and stokoud. But at least she’ll be home, alive.”
She couldn’t believe her daughter had become involved in the drug trade as her other daughter had died of a drug overdose four years ago.
Nelson Kgwete, spokesperson for Dirco, said where a final appeal to the federal court was unsuccessful, the only option was for the prisoner to submit a request for a pardon to the king of Malaysia. Patricia Gerber, the director of Locked Up, an organisation that assists the families of South African drug mules, said the government could’ve done more to help Cornelius.