Pretoria – The posh Mercedes-Benz, which was hired by Dr Nandipha Magudumana, and used by her fugitive lover Thabo Bester in an attempt to cross the border into Zimbabwe is still stuck on the Zimbabwean side of the border, where it is clamped.
Zimbabwe’s state-owned “Sunday News” reported that the car, reportedly worth over R3 million, was impounded by law enforcement agents at the busy border last year, and has been gathering dust since.
According to the report, the car was impounded after a Zimbabwean man identified as Sicelo Ndlovu removed its South African registration plates and replaced them with yellow Zimbabwean plates.
The was part of a process to facilitate the vehicle’s entry into Zimbabwe.
Ndlovu was caught in the act and arrested, but “Sunday News” reported that the 36-year-old was later acquitted on a charge of smuggling.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) was holding on to the Mercedes-Benz pending further legal action, the report said.
Last week Independent Media reported that fugitives Bester and Magudumana were arrested in Arusha, Tanzania while they were allegedly driving to the Kenyan border.
It is believed that the two lovebirds entered Tanzania at the Namanga border crossing, a one-stop border post, with about 16 000 people. The crossing is often used by car smugglers, human traffickers and drug dealers.
A Mozambican national, Zakaria Alberto, was also arrested for allegedly trying to help Bester and Magudumana and it is strongly believed that he was their designated driver. Bester and Magudumana had been on the run for almost two weeks after it was revealed that the escaped convict was hiding in a R12-million mansion in Hyde Park, Johannesburg.
Bester, who was serving a 30-year sentence, escaped from the Mangaung maximum security prison on May 3, 2022 after faking his death by burning an unidentified body in a cell fire.
Magudumana reportedly fetched the burnt corpse from Mangaung and tried to cremate it, but it was later confiscated by police who suspected foul play.
After the jailbreak, IOL reported that it was believed that Bester and Magudumana had checked themselves into a hotel in Durban hours after the escape and that the booking was made by one of their friends.
Seven days later, on May 10, 2022, Magudumana hired the black Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, with an offer to purchase it for R1.7 million from an uMhlanga car dealership not far from the hotel. Bester was going to use the car to skip the country the following day. Once in Zimbabwe he was supposed to lie low.
Unfortunately for him, the car was impounded at the Beitbridge border post after its driver, Ndlovu, was allegedly caught red-handed replacing the car’s South African registration plates with Zimbabwean ones.
Bester, who was being smuggled through illegal posts from South Africa on foot to join his driver on the Zimbabwean side as he did not have a passport, came face to face with soldiers patrolling the border. One of his smugglers was shot but survived.
Bester and his accomplices escaped.
“Sunday Independent” reported that Bester stayed in Zimbabwe for a few days and was forced to return to South Africa after Magudumana allegedly failed to pay the Zimbabwean smugglers who were looking after him.
On his return to South Africa, Bester booked himself into a hotel in Ballito from June 11 to 14, 2022. Bester and Magudumana later rented the mansion in Hyde Park, north of Johannesburg, for R40 000 a month. They had a domestic worker and gardener from Zimbabwe who have since vanished.
The couple stayed in Hyde Park incognito until the news about Bester’s existence broke and they fled to the same hotel where they hid for a few days. Again, the room was booked by one of their friends.
The couple left the hotel in a black SUV minutes before police raided the establishment and fled to Mozambique, where they stayed for a few days before proceeding to Tanzania, where they were arrested.