"I'm back home. And I'm back home stronger."
These were the words convicted South African drug mule, Nolubabalo "Babsie" Nobanda, told eNCA as she touched down at OR Tambo International Airport on Thursday after eight years in a Thailand prison.
Nobanda was arrested at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport in December 2011 after getting off a Qatar Airways flight when approximately 1.5kg of cocaine, with an estimated street value of R1.2m was found in her dreadlocks, News24 previously reported.
She told Thailand authorities at the time of her arrest that she had been hired to deliver the drugs to a customer at a hotel in Bangkok.
Initially sentenced to 30 years in prison, Nobanda's sentence was first halved and then reduced by a further two-and-a-half years in May, News24 previously reported.
Hugging her visibly emotional family members at the airport on Thursday, Nobanda said it felt good to be back home and expressed her appreciation to South Africans for their support while she was in prison.
'Good to be back'
"It's good to be back home," she told the broadcaster.
"I want to thank all South Africans for their support over the past eight years.
"It hasn't been easy, but I just want to thank my country for their love, support and prayers. I'm back home and I'm back stronger."
She said her top priority now was to spend time with her family, but promised that "it's not the last time South Africans hear from me".
"I'm looking forward to being with my family right now and catching up."
Nobanda was released from prison in late August, after which she was transferred to an Immigration Detention Centre where she underwent more administrative processing.