South African drug mule Thando Pendu is finally back in the country after she was detained at Thailand’s International Detention Centre (IDC), where she was held after her release from Bangkok’s Klong Prem Central Prison, DispatchLive has reported.
The publication said the 33-year-old, who hails from Welkom in the Free State, arrived at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Saturday, where family members and supporters greeted her.
Pendu had been in prison for drug smuggling since October 2009, Mail & Guardian reported. At the time of her arrest, she was 23 years old.
She had reportedly been promised a job driving ambulances in Bangkok.
When she landed in Thailand she was informed that, to pay back the “loan” for her ticket, she would have to smuggle narcotics into China. According to Mail & Guardian, she was constantly under surveillance by a syndicate member. She could not swallow the condoms and so the stash was bound crudely to her chest and stuffed in her vagina.
Bangkok customs officials had reportedly been tipped off before she even entered the plane and, while she was being stripped of her illicit cargo, four other South African mules who had been coerced by the same syndicate slipped through on their flight to China, undetected.
According to The Star, Pendu, whom the Thai government granted amnesty to and released last month was forced to remain in Bangkok’s IDC after Home Affairs allegedly dragged its feet in confirming her citizenship to Thai authorities.
This proof of citizenship was reportedly required because Pendu’s passport expired last year.
Someone who assisted in getting Pendu home, Hannetjie Strauss, told DispatchLive that her homecoming had been “deurmekaar” (confusing).
“I actually don’t even know what was going on with Dirco (the Department of International Relations and Cooperation]. All the documents were arranged, but then there were apparently issues with her passports,” said Strauss.
Dirco’s Nelson Kgwete told the publication that the department would prefer that the family raise their concerns regarding the alleged delays directly with the consular services division.
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