If there’s one thing you don’t want to be caught doing in Southeast Asia, it’s smuggling drugs. The penalties range from notoriously nasty imprisonment to death, and the likelihood of your home country being sympathetic to your plight is slim. Everybody knows this, right?
Well, South African Nobanda Nolubabalo, 23, took a chance playing drug mule on a series of flights through Brazil and Qatar, finally being caught in Bangkok, Thailand with 1.5kg of cocaine wrapped up in her dreadlocks. For those of you who are metrically challenged, that’s over three pounds of illegal drugs. Airline security “found something unusual about her dreadlocks,” and upon closer inspection noticed that there was a “matted white substance,” in them. A video of the arrest shows that Ms. Nolubabalo apparently wrapped her hair (which to a trained eye is synthetic) around sticks of solid cocaine.
Nolubabalo’s arrest comes in the wake of the execution of another South African woman for attempting to smuggle crystal meth through Ghangzhou, China. South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma appealed to the Chinese government to commute her sentence; they refused.
A few things bother me about this news item. First of all, this woman claims to have been hired as a drug mule by a Thai businessman for 60,000 baht, or around $1900…not much worth risking your life over. It’s clear that she really needed the money and if you watch the video it’s hard to not feel for her; not only does she have a look on her face that says “my life is over,” but it I find it so dehumanizing to watch people play in a black woman’s hair, no matter the reason. My second problem is a selfish one. Now that people are actually going through with smuggling drugs in black hairstyles, what is that going to mean for the recent trend of uncomfortable afro hair searches by our own TSA?