Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

‘Cheapest option’: Plane that deported Thabo Bester, Dr Nandipha to SA cost R1.4 million

'We never asked anybody that we want a luxury flight,' Home Affairs Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi told Parliament.

The private charter flight used to repatriate Thabo Bester and his partner, Dr Nandipha Magudumana, from Tanzania to South Africa cost around R1.4 million.

This is according to Home Affairs Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi.

Government recently came under heavy criticism after it emerged that a luxury aircraft used was utilised to bring back the fugitives, who were arrested alongside a Mozambican national in Tanzania, to South Africa last week.

According to reports, a Dassault Falcon 900B ZS-DFJ was chartered from Zenith Air by the National Airways Corporation (NAC) to fly a South African delegation, which included senior government officials, to and back from Tanzania.

‘Cheapest of them all’

Briefing Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs on Tuesday, Motsoaledi dismissed the suggestion that the aircraft was hired by the South African Police Service (Saps).

The minister explained to the committee that the Department of Home Affairs was basically forced to charter a flight because Tanzanian authorities would only hand Bester and Magudumana over to immigration officials rather than the police.

“When the police left for Tanzania, we asked them to put somebody from Home Affairs who could identity people, but that gentleman was not from immigration and the Tanzanians said we want immigration officials here. As you know, we don’t have an airplane like the police and the army,” he said.

ALSO READ: Thabo Bester and Nandipha Magudumana’s luxury getaways

He said around 14 officials had to travel to Tanzania and return to South Africa, but commercial flights and road travel would have taken some time.

“Each one had a role in this issue [so] we had to fly them out. We discovered that they must fly to Dar es Salaam and from Dar es Salaam they must hire at least two minibuses and drive 600 kilometres (km) to Arusha and when they arrive in Arusha they must drive another 60km to Mount Kilimanjaro where they will find Thabo Bester and Dr Nandipha.

Watch the meeting below:

Motsoaledi said that the aircraft used was the cheapest option.

“We asked any company that could give us an airplane that can carry 14 people, which will be able to get landing rights and all the documentation on their own without the help from the state in less than 24 hours, because as you know South Africans were eager to know whether this deportation was taking place.

“There were companies who responded and the [plane] we took was the cheapest option at R1.4 million… it was the cheapest of them all. We never asked anybody that we want a luxury flight,” the minister continued.

“This matter is not a small matter… when somebody runs to another country and he is handed over to the police, that thing is called rendition internationally and the Tanzanians said under no condition do they want to be blamed or accused of rendition so they can’t give Thabo Bester and Dr Nandipha to the police or the army.

“They [also] were not prepared to use any of the army and police’s mode of transport that’s why they insisted Home Affairs must come and collect them.”

Thabo Bester ‘doesn’t exist’

Last week, Motsoaledi revealed during a media briefing that Bester did not officially exist, according to Home Affairs’ record collection systems.

The department could not locate his details on the National Population Register, national immigration identity system and the visa adjudication system.

Home Affairs officials could only establish that Bester was born on 13 June 1986, at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto.

READ MORE: Thabo Bester’s ‘non-existence’ shows exactly why SA isn’t trusted internationally

“The only places where his name can be found are in the records of Correctional Services and the Saps. In terms of civil registration, only Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital has his details, which were captured 37 years ago.

“Bester’s mother only met him again when he was jailed in 2011. From what we’ve discovered so far, he never had an identity number with home affairs, never registered a marriage and also never had a passport. He simply doesn’t exist in our systems,” said Motsoaledi.

Court case

Meanwhile, Bester has already made his appearance in court, where his case was postponed to 16 May for further investigations.

The convict, who escaped from Mangaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein on 3 May 2022, abandoned his bid to be released on bail.

Magudumana and three other suspects linked to Bester’s escape have been remanded in custody for a formal bail application set for 3 and 4 May.

The doctor’s father, Zolile Sekeleni, was the only suspect that was granted R10 000 bail by the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

NOW READ: Dr Nandipha’s legal team confident she will walk scot-free