Recaptured Thabo Bester returns to the courtroom

Bester charged with escaping from Mangaung prison

By Becker Semela

14 April 2023

Thabo Bester in the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court on Friday. Photo: Becker Semela

Recaptured in Tanzania and brought back to South Africa, convicted murderer and rapist Thabo Bester appeared in the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court on Friday. He was charged in connection with his escape from G4S-run Mangaung Correctional Centre on 3 May 2022.

The case was postponed until May so that the prosecution can complete its investigation.

A dishevelled Bester entered the courtroom flanked by heavily-armed police and Department of Correctional Services officials.

After he sat down he briefly showed an emotional face with tears in his eyes. He bowed his head but then lifted it up later to face the court and the cameras during the proceedings.

State prosecutor Sello Mathloko explained that bail was not an issue because Bester is already a prisoner serving a life sentence.

Bester’s lawyer Marvin Carpede requested that the case be sped up because his client has already been sentenced.

He also said that since Bester landed in the country he has not eaten anything because he fears being poisoned.

Carpede also added that his client’s identity documentation was incorrect and this needed to be resolved. Daily Maverick reported a briefing by Minister of Home Affairs Dr Aaron Motsoaledi earlier on Friday. There the minister revealed that Bester’s birth in Johannesburg had not been registered, and that he had never been formally documented by Motsoaledi’s department.

Mathloko said it was their aim for the case to be settled as fast as they can but not in the way Carpede had requested.

“We cannot settle the case within a month,” Mathloko told the court.

On the matters of Bester not eating and his incorrect identity documentation Magistrate Mohlolo Kgabisi told Carpede to take the matter to the Departments of Correctional Services and Home Affairs.

A return date of 16 May was then agreed upon by both the prosecution and defence.

The court heard that Bester will not appear on Monday with the others accused of assisting his escape: his girlfriend Dr Nandipha Magudumana; her father, Zolile Sekeleni; former G4s security guard Senohe Matsoara; and camera technician Teboho Lipholo.

Sekeleni and Matsoara briefly appeared before the same court on Tuesday while Magudumana and Lipholo appeared on Thursday.