Beetge arrives home a free woman

The convicted drug mule spent six years in Brazilian custody.

Tessa Beetge, who is back on South African soil, being interviewed by the SABC’s Special Assignment. Picture: via YouTube.

JOHANNESBURG - Convicted drug mule Tessa Beetge is now back in the country after serving almost six of her 12-year sentence in Brazil.

In 2008, Beetge was caught with over 10 kilograms of cocaine hidden in her luggage which she was transporting for Sheryl Cwele, the ex-wife of State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele.

Sheryl Cwele at the Pietermaritzburg High Court, 5 February 2010. Picture: Sapa.

Last month, the Brazilian authorities informed Beetge's family that she would be released early.

She touched down this morning at OR Tambo International Airport, where her aunt Margie Olsen and her best friend were waiting to welcome her.

But Beetge was whisked away upon arrival, avoiding the large media contingent.

An emotional Olsen was clutching a bunch of yellow roses - Beetge's favourite flower - which she had hoped to hand over to her niece.

Beetge's friend (R) and aunt Margie Olsen wait for her arrival at OR Tambo International Airport this morning. Picture: Christa van der Walt/EWN.

But Olsen had to leave the airport with a heavy heart, unable to celebrate Beetge's first moments back home.

She says she's been informed that Beetge was too overwhelmed by the media presence.

Earlier, Olsen said she was saddened that Beetge's mother Marie Swanepoel would not be there to experience the moment she spent her last years fighting for; to see her daughter back in South Africa with her and her two daughters who are now 17 and 15.

Swanepoel passed away while Beetge was still serving her jail term.

Olsen said her sister would have loved to share this special moment.

"I'm just extremely sorry that Maria is not here to witness this, but I will be there for her daughter. I will do everything I can to give her support."

It's not known what her plan is for the next few days, but it's clear Beetge wants some time alone with her loved ones and away from the public.

After being found guilty in May 2011 of commissioning the shipment, Cwele and her Nigerian accomplice Frank Nabolisa were sentenced to 12 years each in a KwaZulu-Natal prison.

In October 2012, the pair were slapped with an increase to 20 years after appealing the earlier ruling in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The judgment handed down by the Bloemfontein court dismissed their appeals and increased their sentences.

Recently, both their sentences were returned to 12 years.