Minister's wife jailed for drug running

The wife of South Africa's state security minister was yesterday sentenced to 12 years in jail after being found guilty of drug running, an embarrassing blow to the ruling African National Congress ahead of elections this month.

A Pietermaritzburg court on Thursday found Sheryl Cwele, wife of Minister Siyabonga Cwele, guilty of dealing drugs and enlisting drug mules who would travel abroad and bring back cocaine. Opposition politicians have called for the minister's resignation, saying if Cwele was unaware of his wife's illicit activity, he should not serve as the person who is responsible for gathering intelligence.

The conviction comes weeks after the country launched an investigation into another minister who is suspected of the misuse of state funds, including having taxpayers pick up the tab for an expensive trip for the minister to visit a girlfriend jailed in Switzerland.

The ruling ANC is expected to roll to victory in the May 18 vote, but the scandals could cost it the control of urban areas.

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