Government knew Thabo Bester had escaped, but did nothing

Authorities dragged their feet investigating the matter, documents tabled before Parliament reveal

By Daniel Steyn and Marecia Damons

12 April 2023

Illustration of Thabo Bester by Lisa Nelson

During a meeting on 18 October 2022, the South African Police Service (SAPS) told the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) and the Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services (JICS) that rapist and murderer Thabo Bester escaped from Mangaung Correctional Centre, on 3 May 2022.

Six days later, the Inspecting Judge for Correctional Services, Justice Edwin Cameron wrote to Minister of Correctional Services Ronald Lamola:

“There are indications that, with the collusion of G4S employees and others, a fire was staged in the single-cell of one Thabo Bester (the notoriously named so-called ‘Facebook rapist’) and a corpse was smuggled into the cell with the objective of faking inmate Bester’s death and facilitating his escape.”

This is revealed in documents given to the Parliamentary Committee on Correctional Services on Wednesday by G4S, DCS, SAPS, and JICS. G4S is a multinational security company that operates Mangaung Correctional Centre.

Bester was arrested in Tanzania along with his associate Nandipha Magudumana on 7 April, eleven months after his escape. But it appears that efforts to apprehend him only started on 24 March after details of Bester’s escape were uncovered by GroundUp.

Here is a timeline showing how the authorities dragged their feet investigating the Bester saga: