The year was 2010, the country was in a jovial mood because of the Soccer World Cup, and for many it was a year to make a quick buck.
Nomonde Gcilishe, 50, got caught up in that euphoria, and her excitement saw her walk straight into a drug dealer’s hands, which later landed her in a foreign jail.
“I was naive and greedy,” she saidwhenVukanivisitedher Groova Park home in Khayelitsha earlier this week.
Nomonde, then an unemployed mother of two children, was struggling to make ends meet when a friend recommended that she “meet guys who would fly her overseas to collect some parcels”.
As it turns out, these parcels contained cocaine.
“I ended up flying to Brazil where I was placed in a hotel with minimal contact with the people who were to hand me the parcel. The hotel owners read between the lines and tried to stop me from doing this. They had seen many people get arrested for drug smuggling,” she said.
“I spent three months in São Paulo working as a nanny for the hotelier. Her children and husband really loved me,” she said.
She took a flight out of São Paulo International Airport with a promise to return and work for the hotelier family again.
She landed at Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport with a bag full of cocaine, and a man she assumed was her handler was waiting for her there. She retrieved her luggage from airport security, and the drugs she was carrying went undetected. But her luck ran out when a Cape Town-bound Intercape bus she had boarded, was stopped by police. Sniffer dogs were unleashed and the coke in her luggage detected.
Since she had given the suitcase keys to the man, they were both arrested and taken to separate holding cells.
The police discovered 1.8kg of cocaine in the suitcase.
“We were arrested on the spot and taken to the Luderitz police station. I saw my life crumbling in front of my eyes,” she said.
She would spend the next three years at the station’s holding cells before being taken to Keetmanshoop Prison.
Her co-accused assured her that the drug lords would pay for her legal fees and that she should not worry.
Days before her trial, however, she discovered that her co-accused intended to “sell me out” because he had hired a lawyer for himself only.
So, she cut a deal with the prosecution and was given a two-year sentence which was further reduced to eight months.
The man was sentenced to nine years in jail.
“My stay in prison made a change. The prison staff warmed up to me and were worried about my children, Lungi, who was 22 now and Lindi, who was 26 now at the time,” she said.
“My family were very supportive during this time and were
also sending me money.”
The children were raised by her husband, Bricks, who eked out a living as a general worker at Pick * Pay for 17 years until recently when he stopped work because of ill health.
“It was a very traumatic time for me and my children, but we prayed and knew that she would come back,” said Bricks.
To supplement the family’s income, Bricks rented out the back of his house to a businessman who operates a popular shisanyama.
When Nomonde came out of prison, she learnt of Nolubabalo Nobanda who was arrested at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport in December 2014. She had been arrested after Thai police found 1.5kg of cocaine with an estimated street value of R1.2 million in her dreadlocks. She is now serving a 15-year jail term.
Nomonde now plans to write a book and warn young women about the dangers of drug trafficking.