Johannesburg - Every Wednesday Tommy Thompson waits for a phone call.
Sometimes his phone will ring, other times it remains silent and the 72-year-old grandfather is forced to wait another week.
But if the call does come, he has just three minutes to tell his son Edward what is happening at home and to ask what he desperately needs to be sent across.
After the three minutes is up, Edward hands the phone over to the next inmate in line at the Ancon 1 maximum security jail, on the outskirts of Lima, Peru.
Edward is serving time for drug trafficking.
The one-time decorated Durban metro police officer last year was sentenced to six years and eight months for allegedly carrying 2kg of cocaine in his bag.
His family and friends believe he is innocent.
“His lawyer told him he should plead guilty so he would get a lighter sentence,” says Thompson at his Durban home.
After two years, Edward could be given parole but then he would have to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest in Peru.
But in that time, Thompson fears for his son’s life. There are fights among inmates, and he has high blood pressure.
Recently, the authorities stopped providing him with his medication.
“Everything has to be paid for, even water. The guards are paid to stand there while you are showering so you don’t get raped,” says Thompson.
To get this money to him, Thompson has to wire it to Peru, where a middleman draws the cash. This middleman then takes a 10% cut.
Sending a package via a courier costs the same price as an airfare.
However, Edward is one of the lucky ones.
Thompson also sends money to a young Pretoria man who was also sentenced for drug trafficking.
“He doesn’t deserve this. I think he was set up,” says Edward’s friend Shane Cox. “He wasn’t into drugs.”
Cox has set up a Facebook page called Support for Ed Thompson where he raises money for his friend.
Edward was a metro policeman for 13 years and in that time, Thompson said his son received a commendation and was once wounded in a shootout.
After he left the police Edward became a bodyguard. It was while he was in this job overseas that family and friends believe he was set up.
In February last year, Thompson said his son was asked to guard a businessman on a trip to Greece.
Five other guards were also hired for the job.
“So he gets to Abu Dhabi and there is a change of plan,” says Thompson.
“The businessman is going to Colombia, and Edward is told to meet him there.
“So they went to Colombia and Edward spent a week there waiting for this guy to come. Then they said he had changed his mind, that he was going back to South Africa.”
To get back to South Africa, Edward, with the other bodyguards, would have to fly from Colombia to Peru then to Brazil.
Edward was on the plane in Peru when police came on board and arrested him.
“When they showed him the bag, he said that is not my bag. He said that it had clothes in it that didn’t fit him. They must have swopped the bag.”
Patricia Gerber, director of the organisation Locked Up, believes that a lot of South Africans in jail on drug charges are there because they were set up.
“I will give you an example. A guy was arrested in South Africa.
“He was involved in recruiting. When they arrested him they found 11 suitcases.
“What they sometimes do is that they will tell you just put your clothes into this bag, and you don’t know that it is loaded with drugs,” says Gerber, whose organisation helps families of South Africans who have been jailed overseas on drug charges.
In the meantime, Cox helps out with duties his friend so desperately wants to do himself. In the next couple of days, Cox will be visiting Edward’s daughter’s grave where he will place flowers to mark the anniversary of her death.
Cox believes that his friend could be out soon, if he remains a model prisoner.
Then he will organise for Edward to fly back to South Africa.
But when he does get back, he would like to find out more about what happened to him in Peru.
“I hope he comes to me one day and says to me, ‘I don’t know what happened, I was set up.’ I would believe him, because he is never going to lie to me,” says Cox.
“But if he said to me. ‘I was going through a hard time and I did something stupid,’ I would still accept it.”