AN Angolan woman who admitted that she acted as a courier to transport more than three kilograms of cocaine from Oshikango to Windhoek was spared imprisonment when she was sentenced in the Windhoek Regional Court this week.
Since cocaine courier Enasi Costa (46) came to Namibia to seek medical treatment for a variety of ailments, it would be a blessing in disguise for her to be sent to prison for the crime to which she admitted guilt, magistrate Ileni Velikoshi said during her sentencing on Wednesday.
If Costa were to be sentenced to a period of direct imprisonment, Namibia's prison authorities would be burdened with having to provide medical treatment to her, and she would have found a way to remain in Namibia to receive free medical care, the magistrate reasoned.
While it had become the norm that people convicted of dealing in cocaine in Namibia would be sentenced to a period of imprisonment, a one-size-fits-all approach to cases involving different facts would not be appropriate, magistrate Velikoshi added.
He sentenced Costa to pay a fine of N$30 000 - the highest fine that can be imposed for dealing in cocaine under current legislation - or serve an eight-year prison term. Costa was further sentenced to seven years' imprisonment, wholly suspended for five years on condition that she is not again convicted of dealing in cocaine during the period of suspension.
Costa pleaded guilty to a charge of dealing in dangerous dependence-producing substances last Friday.
She admitted that she dealt in 3,28 kilograms of cocaine on 17 July this year, when she was arrested in the Otjomuise area of Windhoek. The cocaine had a street value of about N$1,64 million.
In a written plea explanation signed by Costa, she stated that on the day before her arrest, she was travelling from Angola to Windhoek to get medical treatment when she encountered an Angolan acquaintance at Oshikango.
The acquaintance asked her to take a bag with her to Windhoek, and to deliver it to someone in the city, she said. He also told her that the bag contained parcels of cocaine, and that she would be paid for delivering the bag to someone in Windhoek, Costa said.
On arrival in Windhoek, she was picked up by a man whose phone number had been given to her by the acquaintance who was supposed to take her to a guest house, Costa said. While on their way to the guest house, they were involved in a car accident, though and police officers who had been called to the accident scene then discovered that the bag she had brought from Oshikango contained cocaine.
Costa also stated that she was suffering ill-health, having been diagnosed with various ailments, including diabetes and abdominal cancer.
Magistrate Velikoshi noted that the maximum sentence that can be imposed on a first-time offender convicted of dealing in cocaine, as the law currently stood in Namibia, was a fine of N$30 000 or 15 years' imprisonment.
The maximum fine provided for in the law was outdated and needed urgent revision to properly reflect the seriousness of the offence of dealing in dangerous dependence-producing substances, he remarked.
The magistrate also ordered that the cocaine found in Costa's possession be forfeited to the state.
Lawyer Orben Sibeya represented Costa during her trial. The state was represented by public prosecutor Erastus Hatutale.