CONFESSIONS OF A SOWETO DRUG MULE: “I APOLOGIZE TO THE PEOPLE WHOSE LIVES I RUINED.”

Everson Luhanga

Chasing money and the good life, Sizakele became a drug dealer in Soweto.

Soon, she took her first trip to Brazil – to bring back drugs.

It was a successful trip. She got the drugs, and was sitting in the plane at the airport in Sao Paulo looking forward to leaving for OR Tambo.

But the cops were on to her. 

They arrested her on the plane.

She then served five years in a Brazilian jail.

This is her story:

Sizakele’s father died when she was two, and she was raised by her mother. 

At 26, she became an orphan, turning to her uncle to care for her – and that’s when her life took a dark turn.

Sizakele Maphupha’s dreams of becoming a doctor turned to dust when, instead of sending her back to school, he convinced her to become a drug mule.

Speaking to Scrolla.Africa at her home in Mapetla Soweto, Sizekele said: “My uncle was supplying drugs to many people around Soweto and other parts of the province. He was making money.

“He promised to buy me a Range Rover and I melted. I wanted that car whatever the cost. I joined him as a drug dealer.”

She went around, supplying drugs to brothels, strip clubs and taverns.

She was making money again and life was good.

Then her uncle asked her to travel to Brazil.

“There was more money to be made smuggling drugs from overseas,” she explained.

“Sitting in the plane, all I could think of was big money and fast cars, but the trip was not like buying Brazilian hair and coming back home to South Africa to look beautiful. It was a trip that changed my life forever.”

When Sizakele arrived in Sao Paulo, her uncle’s contact had already booked her into a hotel room.

But the man who was supposed to look after her tried to rape her.

“He told me sleeping with him was among the list of initiations I had to go through before being a professional drug smuggler, but I refused,” she said. 

“That was my mistake.” 

He took her to Rio de Janeiro where she collected the drugs.

“I was excited. I was looking forward to landing at OR Tambo and seeing my uncle again.”

But while she waited on the plane for take-off, the police appeared. 

“They told me that they found drugs in my bag and they were arresting me. They took me to the police cells.

“My big dreams became a nightmare.”

After spending eight months in police custody she was handed a five year sentence. 

“I was angry at my uncle. I wrote him letters cursing him and his children. I never thought I would see him again.”

But while serving her sentence, Sizakele had time to reflect on her life. 

“I realized I did a lot of evil things to many people. Some have died. Some are still suffering to this day,” she said.

If she could meet the people that were harmed by the drugs she sold them, she says she would apologise.

In prison, she taught herself Spanish and Portuguese and became a pastor.

She also found love with a man on the outside.

They communicated from prison, promising each other that they would get married.  Shortly after Sizakele was released, however, that dream also ended when he was arrested for drug dealing.

By that time, she had given birth to a baby daughter named Precious.

When the two of them returned to South Africa in 2013, Sizekele’s uncle was waiting at the airport to meet them. They moved in with him, and six months later, he asked her to sell drugs again.

“I moved out of his house to stay with my grandmother,” said Sizakele.

“By then I had already forgiven him. I wanted peace with him.”

He died in 2018. 

Since then, Sizakele has opened a drug rehabilitation centre called Hope of All Nations.

She said it has been shocking to see the number of young people resorting to drugs in South African townships.

“I have seen many unemployed youths smoking their lives away and lockdown has made it worse,” she said.

Sizakele is now asking for help from those who are able to help her on her mission.