Thabo Bester: Police commissioner to probe media leak
Masemola said investigators have prioritised the probe into Bester's prison escape.
Police commissioner General Fannie Masemola during a media briefing on 1 April 2022. Photo: South African Police Service
South African Police Service (Saps) national commissioner General Fannie Masemola said on Sunday authorities would be “looking into the leaking of sensitive and confidential information to media houses” following a discovery that Thabo Bester was indeed missing from custody.
Numerous reports that there were problems were run by media house GroundUp, beginning as far back as 8 November last year.
Masemola also said he had “ordered the prioritisation of investigations into the Mangaung prison escape case, and this is done in the best interest of justice for the victims, survivors, and the affected families.
“Detectives from the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences and the organised crime investigations units in the Free State and Gauteng provinces have been working together around the clock on this investigation.”
Police hunt for Bester
Police have now registered a case of escape from lawful custody after the department of correctional services (DCS) confirmed Bester was not in custody.
Bester was presumed dead by DCS after a fire left a body burnt beyond recognition in his cell on 3
May last year.
Unbeknown to police nor the people responsible for ensuring he served his life imprisonment sentence for multiple counts of rape, Bester was in the wind.
GroundUp subsequently reported in an interview on eNCA on 18 March, DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo stated the department did not have the autopsy report of the body found in Bester’s cell.
The autopsy was completed by 4 March, reported GroundUp, indicating the deceased – whoever he was – had died of the effects of a skull fracture caused by blunt-force trauma.
There was no soot in the deceased’s airways and, critically, there “were signs consistent with the use of an accelerant”, possibly paraffin.
The report also noted there were no DNA kits at Mangaung prison, a private prison managed by multinational security company G4S.
Whistleblower in hiding
Masemola pleaded for patience “and that detectives be allowed the space to conduct a thorough investigation, towards building a watertight case that can ultimately stand in court”.
Meanwhile, the person who blew the whistle on Bester has reportedly gone into hiding after receiving numerous threatening phone calls.
Last year, Nkosinathi Sekeleni exposed Bester’s relationship with celebrity doctor Nandipha Magudumana – the whistle-blower’s sister.
“We are practically homeless and I am in hiding… I fear for my life because of the articles that were written putting me at the centre for exposing my sister.
“I don’t know what dots to connect. I don’t know which high-ranking officials are involved in this [case] and it can come back and bite me,” Sekeleni told City Press.
On 17 March, GroundUp published pictures of Magudumana shopping in Sandton City, with someone who resembled Bester, nearly two months after he supposedly died.
It took DCS and police nine days to announce it was investigating Bester’s disappearance.
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) blamed the DCS and G4S for Bester’s escape.
“We are of the firm view that this escape, including multiple other misconducts and abuses reported over the years, are mainly a consequence of the DCS having outsourced the functions of the state’s security to foreign-owned companies whose sole preoccupation is profit maximisation as opposed to the core mandate of rehabilitating inmates,” Popcru spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said.
An internal investigation resulted in the security supervisor at the time being dismissed “on charges of negligence as opposed to the causal factor behind the fire in the cell”, he said.
Only now was the matter being reopened “which demonstrates that indeed the management of the centre tried to brush the matter under the carpet”.
The police did not respond to a request for comment.
– Additional reporting by Molefe Seeletsa