Johannesburg – Convicted drug mule, Nolubabalo Nobanda touched down at OR Tambo Airport on Thursday after spending eight years in a Thailand prison.
She was arrested at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport on 12 December 2011, after landing from a Qatar Airways flight. That was about 1.5kg of cocaine, with an estimated street value of R1.2 million, was found in her dreadlocks.
At the time of her arrest she told Thai authorities that she had been hired to deliver the drugs to a customer at a hotel in Bangkok.
She was initially sentenced to 30 years in prison, which was later reduced by half, and then further reduced by a further two-and-a-half years earlier this year.
In August Department of International Relations and Cooperation spokesperson Nelson Kgwete announced that Nobanda would be released.
Nobanda was released from prison in late August, after which she was transferred to an Immigration Detention Centre where she underwent more administrative processing.
At the airport on Thursday Nobanda said it felt good to be back home, and expressed her appreciation to South Africans for their support while she was in prison.
“It’s good to be back home. I want to thank all South Africans for their support over the past eight years. It hasn’t been easy, but I just want to thank my country for their love, support and prayers. I’m back home and I’m back stronger,” Nobanda said.
She said her top priority is to spend time with her family. But she said: “It’s not the last time South Africans hear from me.”
Another drug mule, a friend of Nobanda, Thando Pendu, returned to South Africa in June this year after being released from the same prison. Pendu, from Welkom in the Free State, arrived at OR Tambo Airport on June 27, where family members and supporters welcomed her. She had been in prison for drug smuggling since October 2009, press reports indicated. At the time of her arrest, she was 23 years old.