South African drug mule Nontando Pendu who was imprisoned for nearly 10 years in Thailand after she was caught with 48 bags of heroin strapped to her chest, says she plans to be a human trafficking activist now that she is a free woman.
Pendu, who is from Welkom in the Free State, was granted amnesty and released from Bangkok’s Klong Prem Central Prison, after she was in prison from October 2009.
She was speaking to SABC 3 Special Assignment producer Hazel Friedman during an interview which aired on Sunday. The interview was conducted during Pendu’s arrival at the OR Tambo International Airport on June 22.
The investigative current affairs programme had been investigating transnational narcotics trade and had also been following Pendu’s story along with other South Africans incarcerated abroad for drug trafficking,SABC reports.
“What comes to my mind was, ‘you know, Pendu’, you have to try to talk about this human trafficking. They are all taking advantage of young girls, especially the ones coming from poor families, and the ones trying to [get] fast monies,” Pendu said.
From May, after her release, she had remained in Bangkok’s International Detention Centre waiting for the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to confirm her citizenship to the Thai authorities, The The Star reported.
Pendu was 24 when she was offered a job allegedly through a recruiter, whom, according to the programme, is named Thembi, where she was to become an ambulance driver.
However, when things took a turn for Pendu,
Thembi had claimed she knew nothing about the drugs.
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.
She was bust in the process by authorities who had been tipped off.
Pendu says now that she is finally back home, she will now be working on making a difference, through her learnt experiences while detained in Thailand.
She expressed that she was excited to be back home after so many years spent away from her family.
She told Special Assignment that it had taken her six years to accept her situation before she decided to forgive herself for what happened to her.
Pendu said she shared her cell with three other South Africans, including Nolubabalo “Babsie” Nobanda, who was infamously caught with cocaine tucked away in her dreadlocks.
Thai airport officials arrested Nobanda, who is from Makhanda in the Eastern Cape, in December 2011 after she caught with 1.5kg of cocaine in her dreadlocks.
“There were some days I used to ask him[God], ‘why God, why did you allow me to be here, why didn’t you crush me in the flight when I was coming here, instead of punishing me here,” said Pendu.
When asked what she had to say to her alleged recruiter, Pendu said she had “forgiven” her but instead would thank her because of all the empowerment she got while in prison.
“I have learnt what she can never get in life. The things I learn inside and the confidence that I have in me now, I would never have, if I was not in there.”
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