Johannesburg - Corrupt officials from G4S, a company managing the Mangaung maximum security prison in Bloemfontein, used to sneak Facebook rapist Thabo Bester out of the facility so he could spend cosy nights with Dr Nandipha Magudumana in a five-star hotel in Ballito.
Sunday Independent investigations can today exclusively reveal that Bester, while still in prison, using his alias Tom Nkwana with identity number 880613 9546 081, booked a five-star hotel in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal, where he was allegedly joined by Magudumana.
On several occasions, Magudumana booked at the same hotel herself and Bester was allegedly driven, by G4S officials, from Bloemfontein to Ballito to join her for a romantic getaway. Our investigations can today reveal that Magudumana booked the same hotel on:
* April 12-15, 2021.
* August 17-20, 2021.
* March 9-11, 2022.
Bester also booked a room, under his alias Nkwana, at the same hotel from March 9 to 11, 2022. Magudumana also booked two other rooms at the same hotel, one from March 11-13, 2022, and the other from March 12-14, 2022. It is suspected that it was during these days that the final touches for Bester’s escape plan were made.
Days before Bester escaped from prison after faking his death and with the help of his friends from G4S, who brought a corpse to his solitary cell and burned it, Magudumana booked herself at the same hotel for 11 straight days from April 19-30, 2022. On the same day, April 30, 2022, Bester asked to be moved to a solitary cell “for his own safety" after he supposedly failed to pay a prison gang a protection fee.
A prisoner, who was occupying the cell at the time and whose name is known to Sunday Independent, was forcefully removed to make room for Bester and also forced to cancel his request to be in a solitary cell the same evening. The justice and correctional services portfolio committee in Parliament heard this week how Bester was moved into cell 35 without proper approval and that the cameras pointing to the cell were conveniently not working when he escaped.
Teboho Lipholo, a CCTV technician for Intercretron, a company contracted by G4S to operate the camera, was arrested on Wednesday and appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, along with Magudumana, after he was accused of tampering with the cameras that night.
The justice and correctional services portfolio committee heard how the cameras, facing cell 35 that Bester was locked into, weren’t working between 7.38pm on May 2, 2022, and 4.10am on May 3, 2022.
Two officials who were working in the Central Control Room that night were also fired for failing to report that the cameras weren’t working to the relevant authorities. Former G4S security officer Senohe Matsoara, who is alleged to be central to Bester’s escape and allegedly recruited Lipholo for the work, appeared in the same court on Tuesday along with Magudumana’s father, Zolile Cornelius Sekeleni.
The justice and correctional services portfolio committee heard that Matsoara, who was the duty supervisor the night Bester escaped, wasn’t even supposed to be at work as he is a permanent day shift employee.
The committee heard how Matsoara arrived at the prison at 4.52pm on April 29, 2022, driving a bakkie with registration number KG97KM GP allegedly hired by Sekeleni from Sani Fleet Management in Boksburg, ferrying a corpse, which was later burnt in Bester’s cell, hidden in a plasma TV stand. He allegedly asked three other officers to carry the “plasma stand” to the workshop storeroom.
Matsoara allegedly removed officials on guard from their strategic positions that night to attend to some sick prisoners. And Bester escaped from prison in the early hours of May 3, 2022, after allegedly paying R5 million to at least 9 G4S officials.
Sunday Independent can also reveal that Matsoara sneaked out of prison that morning to escort Bester out. Records of Matsoara’s access card, seen by Sunday Independent, show that he left the facility at 3.45am and returned at 4.05am, just 5 minutes before the cameras started working again.
Magudumana’s father, Zolile Sekeleni, arrived at the prison on May 3, 2022, to collect Bester’s body before G4S could reach any of his next of kin to report him dead. Prison officials refused to hand over the body to him because he wasn’t registered as Bester’s relative.
And the following day, on May 4, 2022, Magudumana arrived at the prison to claim the body, flaunting an affidavit and a statement from her father acknowledging that Bester was his daughter’s customary wedded husband. Magudumana’s affidavit was commissioned in Polokwane, Limpopo, by a police officer who was fired in January 2022, four months before the incident.
After the jailbreak, it is believed that Bester and Magudumana checked themselves into the same hotel in Durban hours after the escape and that the booking was done by one of their friends. Seven days later, on May 10, 2022, Magudumana hired a Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, with an offer to purchase it for R1.7 million from a car dealership in Umhlanga not far from the hotel. Bester used the car to skip the country for Zimbabwe the following day, where he was supposed to lie low.
But unfortunately, an incident happened. The car was impounded at Beitbridge border post after its driver, named by a Zimbabwean newspaper as Sicelo Ndlovu, was allegedly caught red-handed removing its South African registration plates from the car and replacing them with Zimbabwean plates and was arrested.
Bester, who was being smuggled through illegal posts on foot to join his driver on the Zimbabwean side as he didn’t have a passport, came face to face with soldiers patrolling the border. One of his smugglers was shot but survived.
They all managed to escape. Sunday Independent understands 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 the same hotel in Ballito from June 11 to 14, 2022. Bester and Magudumana later rented a R12 million house in Hyde Park, north of Johannesburg, where they were paying R40 000 a month. They had a maid and gardener from Zimbabwe who have since vanished without a trace.
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 skipped the country to Mozambique, where they stayed for a few days before proceeding to Tanzania where they were arrested in the early hours of last Saturday.
The two lovebirds, dubbed South Africa’s Bonnie and Clyde, were handed to the South African authorities, who fetched them from Tanzania during the week. They arrived in South Africa in the early hours of Thursday via Lanseria International Airport. They appeared in court on various charges including murder, fraud and the violation of a corpse.
Magudumana appeared on Thursday while Bester was in court on Friday.
Magudumana and the other accused including her father, Matsoara and Lipholo, are expected back in court tomorrow for a formal bail application while Bester will remain in custody serving the remainder of his sentence.
Sunday Independent can confirm that Magudumana’s husband, Dr Mkhulesi Magudumana, initiated a divorce after he established that his wife was spending more time with Bester and that she was one of his regular visitors in prison. Dr Mkhulesi Magudumana failed to answer four questions sent to him this week.
Dr Nandipha Magudumana’s lawyer, Vuyo Manisi, this week confirmed that his client is facing a divorce.
“I am aware of the divorce but it wasn’t part of my briefing, therefore I can’t talk about my client’s private matters,” Manisi said.
Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo yesterday said Bester didn’t have conjugal rights.
“In South Africa, inmates are not afforded conjugal rights,” he said.
Nxumalo said the department was not aware of Bester’s night outs “as such an act can never be permitted”.
“The Mangaung Correctional Centre is classified as a maximum facility. As a result, it does not cater for day parole,” he said.
“The department has received a number of allegations related to Bester’s incarceration period at Mangaung and the temporary manager appointed by DCS is looking at these allegations.”
The portfolio committee also heard this week that Bester was authorised to use his personal computer as he was “studying” but Nxumalo could not explain when the controversial prisoner obtained the device, who delivered it to the prison and what brand it was.
Nxumalo also failed to give us a list of the last 10 people who visited Bester in prison before he escaped.
“An ongoing investigation is always looking at these details and releasing such information may jeopardise the case.”