South African Airways flight attendant Priya Govender, 32, was arrested by officials from the Australian Border Force at Perth International Airport after she was stopped and searched and 6kg of cocaine was allegedly found in her luggage.
Govender was detained when she landed on August 18. According to Australian police, six packages were concealed in six books.
“Initial testing returned a positive result for the border-controlled drug cocaine.”
Govender appeared in court on August 19, and is due back next week but was denied bail.
On the other side of the world, a serving South African policewoman, Angel Maluleke, was detained at Sao Paulo International Airport, Brazil, last week after six bricks of cocaine were found in her luggage as she was about to head home.
The Sowetan quoted family friends of Maluleke, 33, as saying she had been boasting on Facebook about her jaunt to Brazil, her first trip overseas.
Experts say international drug smugglers lure or coerce women into becoming drug mules for them.
In many cases, the naive and unsuspecting women carrying the drugs are only decoys for the real mules, who are also on the same flight.
Tessa Beetge, a South African woman who served more than five years in a women’s prison in Sao Paulo for smuggling drugs, told The Sowetan the place where Maluleke would be detained was scary and rat-infested.
Patricia Gerber, from the advocacy organisation Locked Up in a Foreign Country, claimed there were 3 000 South Africans in foreign prisons for drug offences.
South Africa is one of only a few countries with no prisoner transfer agreement with any other country, which leaves many suffering under hostile prison conditions.
If there was an agreement, sentenced prisoners abroad could serve out their terms at home and at least be close to family.
Gerber said this would mean that female inmates who are mothers would have a chance to bond with their children, who are left behind.
She said many drug mules were imprisoned in countries where English was not spoken. Gerber said recruiters were paid R30 000 for recruiting at least four people a month.
“To them it’s a job and they don’t care about them [recruits].
“They work with the South African police and some airport officials and, when they arrive at foreign airports, they get arrested because those who are in the country send their pictures to foreign officials and inform them where the drugs are kept,” Gerber said.
“The recruiters befriend the victims and promise them jobs or send parcels for them overseas. They also get others hooked on drugs and, if they fail to pay them, they are ordered to travel abroad to transport parcels.
“Sometimes this happens after the relationship between them and the recruiters has turned sour,” said Gerber.
When asked how many South African citizens were locked up in foreign countries, the department of international relations and cooperation’s Nelson Kgwete said: “At the last count, we had about 170 South African citizens either serving time in jail or awaiting trial in Brazil.
“The government once again warns South African citizens travelling abroad to desist from any unlawful activities.”
Gerber said there were South Africans in many foreign prisons, including in Mozambique, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran, Omar, Dubai, Kenya, India, Hong Kong, Brazil and Australia.