Pubdate: Thu, 15 Dec 2011
Source: Daily News, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2011 The Daily News.
Author: Abbey Makoe
Note: Makoe is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Royal News 
Services. His previous columns can be found at


This week's stories about South African drug mules in far-away 
countries resuscitated a deliberately forgotten episode of my 
life   a visit to a prison.

In 1998, while employed as a senior writer for a weekend publication, 
Correctional Services authorities granted me access to a group of 
women serving long jail terms at Sun City prison south of Joburg.

As I walked through the female section of the prison in my jeans and 
running shoes, I attracted stares, waves and smiles from female 
prisoners   young and old, black and white   with the same magnetic force.

My assignment was one of the most emotional.

As a village boy who grew up in the then rural Phokeng near 
Rustenburg in the North West, I was always under the impression that 
a penitentiary was an exclusive place to keep wayward men who fell on 
the wrong side of the law.

It wasn't until my early teens during one of my school holidays in 
Rockville in Soweto that I discovered, to my horror, that women, too, 
could be arrested and that like their male counterparts, were whisked 
to prison.

My discovery was accidental.

While playing in the park one boy was constantly teased about his 
mother who was doing time in prison.

Although I initially thought that the story was a prank, I was left 
shivering when my uncle later confirmed that indeed women did get jailed.

During my visit to Sun City prison, that teenage-hood episode kept on 
playing on my mind with great emotion.

I sat down with the prisoners, one by one and as a group, and their 
stories pierced my heart with pain and shock.

I will not talk about those jailed for crimes such as murder, robbery 
or fraud.

The interview which this week came back crashing on my mind was the 
one I did with a young pretty woman from Sebokeng in the Vaal.

She was explicitly beautiful, in fact, a bomb of a beauty with a 
mesmerising smile and a body to die for.

I remember her for the model-like looks as much as I do for the 
reasons she was behind bars.

When she told me her story, she was remorseful, but her posture of 
bravery   in the light of her femme fatale   left me shaking.

She had been caught trying to catch a flight at OR Tambo 
International Airport with cocaine in her luggage.

In the end, she was sentenced to an effective 15-year jail term.

She said she was a daughter of a single mother who had been 
struggling to pay her tuition fees. Feeling pity for her mother's 
dire financial situation, she fell easily for the lure of a promised 
quick buck if she joined the underworld of drugs.

As she told me the story, she continually expressed her thanks for 
being incarcerated in the country as her mother could pay her visits 

She also vowed to turn a new page and become a do-gooder and had 
started studying through correspondence.

If some people are attracted to drug peddling to make ends meet, what 
about the drug couriers who have sufficient means to live?

How does one explain this story? Six years ago a radio controller in 
the traffic police section at Ekurhuleni was arrested in Brazil for drugs.

She was married to a traffic officer in the same municipality and the 
couple lived in a wonderful house in Daveyton with their children. 
She was sentenced to 15 years in a Brazilian prison, where she is 
still languishing.

In its way, the intriguing story of Wits university student 
Nolubabalo Nobanda, who was this week caught in Thailand with 1.5kg 
of cocaine in her dreadlocks, highlights the seriousness of drugs in 
the new South Africa.

At face value, the 23-year-old with middle-class roots does fit the 
ordinary profile of a drug dealer. Now she faces 20 years in a Thai prison.

The future is gone!

Not so lucky, of course, was Janice Linden who was executed in China 
this week after being found guilty of drug possession.

Although I am disappointed that the Chinese authorities declined to 
heed even President Jacob Zuma's plea to commute her death sentence 
to a life jail term, as South Africans we need to appreciate that 
every country has its own laws. When we transgress laws of other 
countries we should know that the consequences would be dire.

As for China, the new international powerhouse has shown us that our 
bilateral relations are not so equal after all.

It is my fervent wish that for Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's 
birthday next year, the visa for the Dalai Lama be approved in advance.

To our country men and women, it is time to come to terms with the 
illegality and danger of drugs. Not only do they mess up the lives of 
those who take them, they wreak havoc in the social cohesion of societies.

Until recently SAA was making international headlines for wrong 
reasons, with its crew members often being nabbed in foreign 
countries on drug-related charges. That dented the image of our 
country in the eyes of the international community.

To become an air hostess is the dream of many, particularly the 
historically disadvantaged. To be afforded such a magnificent 
opportunity through a career that takes one to many corners of the 
world, and misuse such a chance, is downright dumb. Many people do 
not recognise the harsh side of life. It is not always that life 
grants one a second chance. Hence anyone's failure to make the best 
of the opportunity that one gets makes me want to strangle such a 
person, to ring their neck.

The lure of easy money must be considered another form of suicide. In 
life there are no short cuts. Only hard work yields handsome returns. 
No pain, no gain.

The illusion of wealth accumulation overnight and with no sweat is 
plain delusional. These are the lessons that our children need to be 
taught. Make a proper, decent effort and be rewarded.

Courting the attention of a Nigerian drug lord who pampers you with 
lies of quick bucks and effortless riches is the craziest, most 
stupid any of our children can fall for.

Let the education on drug awareness, and the implications of their 
possession, be a part of everyday life learning and teaching, at home 
and in our schools. That way, we would embark upon the building of a 
truly liberated nation. After attaining freedom, we can't afford to 
be known as a nation of drug couriers. Let us all become 
whistle-blowers and nip this scourge in the bud.

* Makoe is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Royal News 
Services. His previous columns can be found at 
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