South Africa minister’s ex-wife starts 20-year jail term

AFP – The long-time wife of South Africa‘s intelligence minister turned herself in Thursday to begin a 20-year prison sentence for drug running, a local court said.

An official at Pietermaritzburg High Court said Sheryl Cwele, 50, appeared before the authorities on Thursday morning, a few hours ahead of a bail deadline.

At the time of her conviction Sheryl Cwele was the wife of Siyabonga Cwele, the minister of intelligence. Local media reports suggest the two have since divorced.

The minister had initially accompanied his wife to court during the case, but has since declined to comment on her charges and conviction.

On Monday Cwele’s appeal to quash a 12-year sentence for hiring young women as drug mules had failed and her sentence had been upped to 20 years.

She was released on bail of 100,000 rand ($12,000 or 9200 euro) and was given until Thursday at 13:00 local time to turn herself in.

Allegations of Cwele’s drug trafficking surfaced in 2009 after the arrest of Tessa Beetge, a South African woman caught in Brazil with 10 kilogrammes (22 pounds) of cocaine worth almost $300,000 (208,000 euros).

The crime happened while Cwele was director of health and community services in the Hibiscus Coast Municipality, south of the port city of Durban.

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