He is beyond help. If only he knew what the toll was on the families and people he hurt in the years we tried to help him.”
These were the words of angry members of a southern Joburg community who spoke of their upset at the rapes, fraud, thefts and an alleged murder by Thabo Bester, also dubbed the Facebook rapist.
“If I find him I’ll strangle him. He has painted a scenario of himself as the victim and that he grew up underprivileged. It’s a lie. He grew up privileged like the rest of us,” said one young man who grew up with Bester in the Eikenhof area.
Last week, Bester was sentenced to 50 years’ imprisonment for the rape and aggravated robbery of two women in Durban. He had pleaded guilty to the charges only days after being arrested in Alberton in connection with a spate of rapes and robberies in at least four provinces and the murder of Nomfundo Tyulu in Cape Town in August.
He was alleged to have scammed models with job offers at TV stations or model agencies before robbing them at knife-point. He set up dates via Facebook.
During mitigation of sentence before Durban Magistrate Sharon Marks last week, he stated he had been forced into crime by the squalid conditions in which he had been raised, the rape he had suffered at the hands of his alcoholic grandmother’s friend, being kidnapped and raped by a man who had promised to look after him and that he was gang-raped in prison.
He also testified that he had never seen his parents, and had lived in terrible conditions with his grandparents on the Eikenhof farm.
He said he had been left destitute when his grandmother died and that circumstances had forced his life of crime. Community members said this was a lie. Most asked not to be named because of the “damage this case has done to all of us”.
Particularly upsetting were the abuse claims. All residents and teachers interviewed knew nothing of this, saying he was a “smooth talker”.
A Kibler Park businesswoman, Nelléne Louw, described how she had met Bester when he was four years old and living in Eikenhof.
“There was a knock at the back door and there stood a grandfather and this small boy. The old man asked if I had given money to the child. I said no,” said Louw, explaining that the grandfather had found a large sum of money on Bester, who said she had given it to him.
A year later a local shebeen owner confronted the child after he had admitted to stealing a bottle of coins from the Ferreira family where his grandmother, Johanna Bester, grandfather Abel and he lived in the servants’ quarters. This was also where Bester was born on June 13, 1987.
“My sister helped bring him into this world,” said Robert Ferreira, who grew up with Bester.
Meisie Magagula was only 16 when she gave birth to the boy she left in the care of her parents. Residents said he was allegedly fathered by a local shopkeeper.
“Johanna worked for my parents for more than 40 years and Abel also worked for them. They raised us – me, my brother and two sisters – as they had raised Thabo,” said Ferreira. “They did not drink a lot. They would drink on weekends like everyone else. Never in the week. My parents trusted them implicitly.”
Bester also spent a lot of time in the Louw household. The Louws explained how they tried several times to help Bester, even going as far as buying him tracksuits and paying for his travel expenses.
At one stage he had asked the couple to adopt him. The last time they saw him was seven years ago – until he arrived at their Kibler Park home about three months ago asking for help to obtain an ID book.
“I said to him ‘no more’. My wife was still compassionate, but I had had enough,” said Louw. - Tribune