THABO Bester appeared to be a senior figure in an elaborate prison syndicate that allegedly ran drug, money laundering, and sex operations behind bars, with claims those who raised questions or suspicions were poisoned.
Bester, who was initially convicted of murder and two counts of rape after luring women via Facebook, was serving a life sentence when he escaped from the Mangaung maximum-security prison in 2022 by setting his cell alight.
A body was found in his cell and officials announced Bester’s death at the time, but he was later spotted living a life of luxury and was eventually recaptured.
Investigations into his escape unearthed several other shocking practices at the prison during his time there, reported the Sunday Times, including prison guards prostituting themselves for between R1 000 and R1 500- which Bester was alleged to have made use of- and a ‘boy-wife’ movement to organise sex between prisoners.
Referring to a leaked document compiled by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), the paper said Bester appeared to be pretty high up in the syndicate, which was believed to also include a senior prison manager.
The document allegedly also unearthed “a poisoning campaign to take out offenders who allegedly ‘saw things’ up to and leading to the Bester escape” and a plot to allegedly poison Bester’s former cellmate Zwelinzima Nquru after he shared his suspicions that the conman may not be dead.
“I was approached by a G4S security manager in June 2022 (a month after Bester’s escape) who gave me a blue substance in a bag. He told me to put it in the food of prisoner Zwelinzima Nquru,” an inmate, who was later removed from the prison, told the paper.
The department confirmed such a report but told the paper it could not investigate it further.
“Some aspects also relate to the Thabo Bester escape incident, (which is) now before the court and (in respect of which) investigations have not been closed”.
Bester was caught with his lover, influencer Dr Nandipha Magudumana, in Tanzania last April.
Magudumana faces multiple counts, including fraud, defeating the ends of justice, and assisting an inmate to escape from prison.
Magudumana was denied bail by the court last year, finding that she was “a definite flight risk and that no bail condition will assist under the circumstances to limit this risk”.
Their trial starts in the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein on 21 February.
Bester is being held at Kgosi Mampuru Prison and Magudumana at Kokstad Prison.
Bester cries foul over ‘missing’ items worth millions
Last August Bester’s legal representative Kabelo Matee claimed millions in cash and over a dozen personal items valued between R9 500 and R2.6 million each were missing after his arrest.
The items include:
· iPhone 14 ProMax – R36 000
· Samsung S23 – R32 000
· Samsung Z4 – R40 000
· iPad 16 – R18 000
· Macbook Air 16 – R12 500
· Macbook Pro 16 – R34 600
· Burberry card holder – R15 500
· Burberry sunglasses – R11 500
· Tom Ford sunglasses – R9 500
· HP laptop – R41 000
· Louis Vuitton laptop bag – R51 000
· Marriage ring – R350 000
· Two Audemars Piguet watches – R2 500 000 each
· Two FM watches – R2 500 000 each
· Two Rolex watches – R2 600 000 each
· C watch – R1 750 000
· Patek Philippe watch – R1 900 000.
“All these items that I’m mentioning were reported stolen by accused number five at the Lanseria Police Station.
“I do not have the case number of the said case, however, I thought that it was prudent that we put these items on record. They are still missing and nobody is taking accountability,” said his lawyer. — Citizen.