Thabo Bester brazen prison escape: What we know so far

A picture of Bester pretending to be ‘Tom Motsepe’ the chairman of 21st Century Media at the Women in Media conference back in 2018. Picture:Supplied

A picture of Bester pretending to be ‘Tom Motsepe’ the chairman of 21st Century Media at the Women in Media conference back in 2018. Picture:Supplied

Published Mar 27, 2023


Thabo Bester's escape from the Mangaung Correctional Centre has raised a number of questions about corruption at the facility.

This is according to Head of Justice and Violence Prevention at the Institute for Security Studies, Gareth Newham.

Speaking to IOL following the latest developments in the Thabo Bester Facebook rapist matter, Newham said there was no way the fugitive could have achieved this without working with staff at the facility.

This was also echoed in an earlier IOL report, by PA leader Gayton McKenzie, who said Bester would have required the support of prison officials, politicians and police to pull of his prison escape.

"Furthermore, that it took journalists to uncover this, rather than the correctional facility, making it known that a dangerous criminal had escaped and asking the public to assist with his recapture.

“Moreover, did the facility report it to the police, and if so, when? It appears that the police have only recently assembled a team to track him down," Newham said.

Questions need to be asked as to what steps will be taken to ensure that this does not happen again, he said, and what protocols are in place to ensure that when escapes do take place, the correctional facilities, particularly private ones, take steps to immediately notify the police and the public.

At the weekend, the Department of Correctional Services confirmed Bester's escape on May 3, 2022. This after the DCS initially reported that Bester had died after he lit a fire in his single cell.

It was further confirmed that a body was found in the cell, but the person died prior to the fire due to blunt force trauma to the head.

Now, police are investigating a case of murder. Police have since asked for patience from the public while the investigation is under way.

Meanwhile, Phumudzo Thenga, is on a mission to clear her name. Thenga, a businesswoman, was linked to a business venture with the convicted rapist and killer.

She was the director of the scam production company, 21st Century Media, which was behind the elaborate R1250 per ticket Women in Media event that turned out to be a scam.

Thenga said she met Bester under the name Tom Motsepe in 2017 through Instagram. He claimed to be based in the US and the UK and said he was related to the Motsepe family.

"He organised meetings with high level legit business people with ease – removing all suspicion of anything untoward," Thenga said in a statement posted on Instagram.

She said in 2018, she was approached by lawyers representing 21st Century Fox and her suspicious were confirmed that Tom Motsepe was a fraud.

She said she later found out through some employees that Motsepe was Bester and he was in prison.

"Tom tearfully confirmed that he had been in prison all along and conducted all the correspondence from behind bars," the statement read, adding that Thenga then wrote off the ordeal.

She said she then de-registered all related companies and continued with her own business ventures.

Thenga said the matter was five years ago and was only recently brought up following an enquiry from GroundUp.

"Phumudzo through her lawyers hereby distances herself from any criminal activities associated with Tom Motsepe aka Thabo Bester. I am a victim in all of this, I was scammed and decided to painfully walk away, now my life will be at risk after this," read the statement.

Bester’s partner, Dr Nandipha Magudumana’s brother Nkosinathi Sekeleni, who exposed the couple’s relationship last year, declined to be drawn into commentary on the investigation.

Sekeleni, Magudumana’s brother, also clarified that he was not a whistle-blower and feared for his and his family’s safety.