Debbie Calitz of Somali pirate, kidnap fame appears at the Hatfield Magistrate's Court in Pretoria for possesion of drugs. She was granted bail. 101212. picture: Chris Collingridge 811

Tanya Waterworth

SOMALI pirate hostage Debbie Calitz admitted yesterday to using dagga.

“I believe cannabis is medicinal. I have made tea out of it for my asthma. It is a natural plant and I don’t think it should be illegal,” said Calitz, who was held hostage by Somali pirates and appeared in a Pretoria court charged with possession of dagga and magic mushrooms. Calitz, held hostage for 20 months with Bruno Pelizzari, is to return to court on January 30.

Last night she would not comment on the case but defended the use of dagga following the publication in YOU magazine of a story headlined “Debbie’s Days of Drugs and Booze”. “Instead of putting e-tolls on our freeways, legalise cannabis and tax it,” she said.

Last night Calitz was branded ungrateful by the Durban woman who spearheaded the drive for their release. “You all know what I did to get them released and her lack of gratitude is a slap in the face,” said Pelizzari’s sister Vera Hecht.

While she would not comment on her arrest earlier this week after dagga and magic mushrooms were found by police in the flat where she stays with her nephew Jason, Calitz said she has become immune to comments by Pelizarri’s family, and public opinion.

“I have written in my book all about my past, it’s no secret. I had a good childhood with lots of love in my family, even though we were poor. But then I got involved in some abusive relationships. But I managed to get out of it all alone, by myself. It was all a long time ago, I’m not like that any more. I think I’ve become an even better person after my time in Somalia.”

While the magazine quotes Pelizzari’s friend Mark Gerraghty as accepting that Calitz “did drugs, but hated the drinking”, Calitz said since coming back from Somalia she is only able to cope with a glass of wine.

“When we were first released, I really battled to eat properly. We had only eaten rice and sometimes a water vegetable soup for so long. I had to introduce one thing at a time as my stomach was so affected. I cannot drink a lot of alcohol. I believe in nature, which is why I think cannabis should be legalised. Alcohol and cigarettes are far worse for you.”

Calitz, her daughter Kerri-Ann and nephew Jason and six others, aged between 19 and 50, were arrested last weekend in a raid by the police on the flat in Constantia Park where Calitz was staying with her children.

The police said they were tipped off that there were drugs in the flat and the arrests coincided with the release of Calitz’s book Twenty Months of Hostage Hell last weekend.

Calitz said last night that she and Pelizzari were still in close communication even though he is in Dar Es Salaam.

Pelizzari would not be drawn into the fracas and was quoted as saying, “This whole thing has been blown out of proportion. I feel for Debbie. I know the process. She’s gone from one hell to another”.

After the couple’s release, rumours surfaced that Calitz had fallen out with members of the Pellizzari family over funds raised during their captivity meant to be used as ransom money. Hecht confirmed last night that none of the money was used to pay a ransom.