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Mom of drug mule pleads for grandchild

on 06 January 2007.

After a lifetime of heartache with her delinquent and criminal daughter, a Durban mother is now trying to rescue her two-month-old grandson from the hell of a Brazilian jail.

Belinda Lange said on Friday night she was desperate to get to Sao Paulo so she could begin negotiations to bring Tyron Joe back home, where he would then meet his 17-month-old brother, Roland, for the first time. However, raising the funds to get her there has been impossible, she said.

Her daughter Joeleene Phillips, 21, was four months' pregnant when she was jailed in May 2006 for trying to bring 30kg of cocaine out of Brazil. She was found guilty, but has still to be sentenced.

She gave birth to the baby on November 2 last year in the Penitenci√°ria Feminina prison where she is awaiting sentence. Under Brazilian law, Joeleene can keep Tyron for only six months, after which he will be removed from the prison and placed in an orphanage or other institution.

According to Lange, if female inmates do not have family to help them, their babies are placed in an institution, where Brazil's Catholic Prison Pastoral mission group says it is not uncommon for them to disappear into the adoption world, generally against the will and without the authorisation of the mother.

Lange, who is already caring for her daughter's first child, said she could not bear to think of her innocent grandchild being placed in an orphanage.

"What Joeleene did was wrong and for that she should serve her time, but the child is innocent. He didn't ask to be born, especially not under those circumstances. I can't see myself allowing my grandchild to have that kind of life.

"And for Roland to not see his brother is something I cannot accept. He's already missed so much of his parents. That baby should be with his family. He's gone through enough already," she said.

South African Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Vincent Shongwane said last night: "This is purely a family matter and we won't be held accountable for any expenses she incurs while trying to bring back the baby. We will, however, help to facilitate the travel documents and arrange contact between her and prison authorities to remove the child. We will also arrange transport to and from the prison for her and the child in Brazil, but cannot provide air tickets."

For Lange, this is yet another harrowing chapter in the sad saga of how her daughter fell into a life of drug trafficking and prostitution.

Lange believes her daughter's Nigerian boyfriend and the father of her two children, who has since disappeared, is the reason behind Joeleene's criminal lifestyle.

"I will never understand what she saw in him or the hold he has on her. In the two years they were together she was arrested numerous times on drug-related charges and for soliciting.

"But if that's the life she continues to want, then I told her we will be dead to her," she said.

As far as her grandchildren are concerned, she said she would do whatever she had to ensure they had every chance to lead a better life.

"I have done everything for Roland since his birth and he is enjoying a good life in a good home. I want my other grandson to experience the same.

"If only someone could help me get there, I will see that this child will have a chance in life. No child should live in a place that's not his own and without people who love him," she added.