May 5, 2011 / 5:00 PM / in 7 years

SAfrica convicts security minister's wife for drugs

JOHANNESBURG, May 5 (Reuters) - The wife of South Africa’s state security minister was convicted on Thursday of drug running, an embarrassing blow to the ruling African National Congress ahead of elections this month.

A court in Pietermaritzburg found Sheryl Cwele, wife of Minister Siyabonga Cwele, guilty of dealing drugs and enlisting drug mules who would travel abroad and bring back cocaine. Sentencing was set for Friday, local media reported.

Opposition politicians have called for the minister’s resignation, saying if Cwele was unaware of his wife illicit activity, he should not serve as the person responsible for security and 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 him to visit a girlfriend jailed in Switzerland.

The ruling ANC, which has had a stranglehold on politics since it took over when apartheid ended 17 years ago, is expected to roll to victory in the May 18 vote, but the scandals could cost it control of urban areas and undermine President Jacob Zuma as ANC rivals look to unseat him. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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