Babsie Nobanda to touch down on home soil after 8 years in Thai jail
Convicted Makhanda drug smuggler Nolubabalo “Babsie” Nobanda is on Thursday expected to touch down on South African soil when she returns home from serving time in jail in Thailand.
Her impending arrival at Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport comes after her 15-year prison sentence in Thailand was commuted by two-and-a-half years in May, as part of a general amnesty granted to prisoners in the southeast Asian country by recently crowned Thai king Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Nobanda made international headlines in December 2011 when she was discovered at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport carrying cocaine mixed with baking powder in her dreadlocks.
She was 23 years old at the time.
In June of the following year, the former Victoria Girls’ High School pupil was sentenced to 15 years in Bangkok’s notorious maximum security Klong Prem Central Prison.
During her incarceration, she sought to make the best of her situation by studying and teaching prison authorities English.
Last month, Henk Vanstaen, a Good Samaritan helping her in Thailand, revealed that she was ready to become a productive member of society when she returned to Mzansi — armed with a degree she obtained through long distance learning.
“I know she learnt a lot during her stay. She will come out with a degree in communication, and also, perhaps more importantly, with the realisation that she took her destiny in her own hands and became a better person,” Vanstaen said.
“She should be proud. She is now ready and committed to put that into practice.”
When her mother Honjiswa Mbewu last visited her in 2014, Nobanda was then in the second year of her communication studies with Unisa.
When Nobanda was not teaching her jailers or studying, she spent much of her time with a fellow drug-smuggling prisoner, Thando Pendu from Free State. Pendu, 33, was released and returned to SA in June after 10 years in jail in Thailand.