It would be in the best interest of the public if Dr Nandipha Magudumana remained behind bars, the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court heard on Tuesday, as it was revealed that she was facing at least six criminal cases of fraud in excess of R20 million.
The court heard elaborate details about how Magudumana allegedly aided her lover, Facebook rapist and murderer, Thabo Bester, to escape from the G4S-run Mangaung Correctional Centre with the assistance of about eleven others, who included employees of the privately-run prison facility.
Bester had been serving a life sentence for rape and murder when he pulled off a sensational prison escape from the prison in May last year, faking his fiery death by planting a dead body in his cell, while allegedly being aided by several prison employees who played key roles in the plot by planting bodies and switching off CCTV camera footage.
In opposing Magudumana’s bail application, Investigating Officer Lieutenant Colonel Tieho Flyman, who is attached to the Free State Organised Crime in Bloemfontein, submitted a lengthy affidavit to the court detailing the serious charges Magudumana was facing.
The charges include multiple counts of fraud, violating a corpse, defeating the ends of justice, aiding an inmate to escape from lawful custody, among others.
The court also heard that Magudumana was facing fraud charges in excess of R20 million stretching from registered cases in Durban North, Benoni, Randburg, Sandton and Sinoville in Pretoria.
ELOPED WITH RAPIST
In one case registered at the Sinoville police station in Pretoria, Magudumana is accused of R15 million, R500,000 in Sandton, R1.2 million in Randburg, R5.1 million also in Benoni, R150,000 in Durban North, and another R900,000 fraud claim at the Randburg police station.
"Magudumana is married with two minor children who are staying with the father. She deserted the children since March, when she decided to elope with Bester while a married woman," said Flyman.
The court also heard that one of Magudumana’s companies had been issued with an order to pay R2.8 million at the Gauteng High Court.
The police officer said Magudumana, who had a valid passport expiring in 2027, had already demonstrated she was a flight risk and told the court that she would not hesitate to escape again.
Flyman detailed how Magudumana and Bester, whom he deemed both masterminds of the Bester escape plot, had jointly rented upmarket apartments in Hyde Park for themselves and another property in River Club, Sandton, for Magudumana’s parents.
Bester had been using the alias of Tom Katlego Motsepe Nkwana.
The couple fled from the property in March 2023 just as the noose was tightening around them after explosive reports in the non-profit news agency GroundUp, which published pictures depicting a man who looked like Bester shopping with Magudumana and her two children at a Sandton supermarket.
The pictures were only published in March this year, but they were understood to have been actually taken in June last year, a month after Bester supposedly died in Cell 35 at the Mangaung prison facility.
Around the same time Magudumana and Bester escaped from Hyde Park, Magudumana’s elderly parents, her dad Zolile Sekeleni and her sickly mother, also fled from the River Club property they were renting around the same time, said Flyman.
Flyman also told the court that Magudumana had been suspended from practising medicine by the Health Professions Council of SA in 2021, after she failed to pay her annual fees.
Flyman said this meant she was practicing as a medical practitioner illegally at her Greenpark site, where she ran a medical practice specialising in medical aesthetics.
Flyman also said Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) records showed that Magudumana was a director in at least six businesses.
These businesses include TBN PTY LTD, Saco Investment and Capital Fund (since resigned as director), Doctors Network Legacy, iMedical Life, Icon Group, and Holdings PTY LTD.
"The nature of the offences induces a sense of shock in the community. It was a well-planned operation.
"A convicted rapist and murderer was back in the community with total disrespect for the two bodies," said Flyman in his affidavit, urging the court to deny Magudumana bail.
He also added that she had left the country illegally, had escaped the police for 11 months, and was facing long-term imprisonment for the crimes she faced.
"Magudumana acted in common purpose with Bester to commit crime. Their purpose was that Bester must escape.
"Magudumana and Bester are masterminds of the planned escape. She collected a body from a State mortuary under false pretences that it was that of her father, Zingisa Magadla.
"She arranged for a funeral and burial in the early hours of the morning, citing cultural practice," he said.
When the coffin was exhumed on April 2, 2023, police found no human remains, but instead they found 10 kg of mealie meal inside.
"The first attempt to facilitate escape was abandoned, and the body was discovered floating in a river in Bloemfontein. That body is still at the mortuary, waiting to be claimed," he said.
The court heard how the body that was supposedly Bester's was actually the body of Katlego Bereng. Bereng’s body was later snuck into the Bloemfontein prison facility, where it was burnt, in Bester’s supposed suicide death.
"Magudumana approached the mortuary on April 27, 2022, to claim another body with another of the accused. They hired a vehicle from the OR Tambo International Airport, which was used to smuggle the body into the facility, where it was kept at the workshop until the grand plan of May 3, 2022—Bester's supposed fiery death.
Flyman said the body and the cell were set alight to create the impression that Bester died by suicide in Cell 35, as his accomplices disconnected CCTV camera footage for several hours.
Flyman told the court that on May 5, 2022, Magudumana and her father claimed the body as Bester's.
"Magudumana arranged for the body to be transported to Gauteng for cremation. The SA Police Services received a preliminary postmortem stating the cause of death to be blunt force trauma to the head and no signs of smoke inhalation. The SAPS stopped the release of the body for burial or cremation," said Flyman.
It was at this point that Magudumana approached the Gauteng North High Court on an urgent basis, telling the court that she was Bester’s customary wife as he had paid R60,000 lobolo for her in December 2020.
This was said to have been facilitated by a David Magagula, a supposed uncle of Bester who had since died. Police later found no such person existed and that Bester’s uncle was alive and well, and his name was actually Claasen Magagula.
Magudumana’s father, Sekeleni, had also submitted an affidavit in support of Magudumana’s claims in an attempt to gain access to the body.
Flyman said the matter was settled in court in April with a cost order against Magudumana, and he clarified that the police had tracked Bester’s mother, whose DNA matched that of Bester.
The bail application is expected to conclude on Wednesday.
– To read more about the entire Bester and Magudumana saga, click here.
– A look back at how Thabo Bester became the Facebook rapist.
– Other accused in the Bester matter are former G4S prison warder Senohe Matsoara, Zanda Moyo, Zolile Cornelius Sekeleni, former Integritron Integrated Solutions camera technician Teboho Lipholo, suspended G4S employee Tieho Frans Makhotsa, former G4S guard Buti Masukela, suspended G4S employee Natassja Jansen and G4S employees, Joel Makhetha, Moeketsi Ramolula and Thabang Mier, who were granted bail of R10,000