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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

EXCLUSIVE: Thabo Bester’s Dr Nandipha and the abandoned Merc at Zim border [watch]

Months ago, Thabo Bester's accomplice allegedly crossed the Zim border in a R1.3m Merc and simply left it there.

As police scour the country for notorious “Facebook rapist” Thabo Bester — the convicted murderer whose exploits in prison and on the run have stunned South Africans — explosive new details now point to a plan to skip the country via the Zimbabwean border.

Newly revealed video footage obtained by The Citizen adds yet another twist to the tale. In the video, one half of South Africa’s most wanted couple, Dr Nandipha Magudumana, admits to defaulting on a luxury car when confronted by a private investigator who traced it to a neighbouring country.

The footage was taken two months ago before it emerged that Bester had escaped from prison.

In it, the deregistered doctor mentions a partner responsible for the agreement which saw her left with hundreds of thousands of debt, but refuses to name the person or divulge details about the nature of their relationship.

Thabo Bester and Dr Nandipha: SA’s most wanted couple

Since the discovery of Bester’s escape, police have been attempting to piece together what is emerging as a complicated puzzle around Bester, who was jailed in Mangaung Prison from 2012 until last year.

The couple’s myriad of alleged scams didn’t lack in brazenness, such as the one involving Arum Properties, the bogus construction company through which they fleeced several people of millions of rands, according to a Daily Maverick report.

Man of many faces: Convicted murderer, rapist and fraudster Thabo Bester. Images via Twitter and GroundUp

ALSO READ: Thabo Bester: Cosatu calls on government to revisit privatisation of prisons

Thabo Bester: More twists and turns emerge

Adding to what is fast becoming one of the country’s most sensational criminal sagas, The Citizen can now reveal new details of a baffling series of events which unfolded just months before Bester’s escape came to light.

Leaving the owner of a Johannesburg car dealership and private investigators scratching their heads, Magudumana reportedly purchased a luxury vehicle last year, later drove it across the Zimbabwean border, and strangely, simply abandoned it there.

Bizarre border escape plan?

Exclusive interviews with both the dealership owner and private investigators, which have provided fresh and bizarre insights into the Bester/Magudumana saga, have produced no explanation around the doctor’s mysterious border crossing.

Observers, however, have speculated that the intriguing trip may have been part of a possible border escape plan for Bester.

Setting the scene: Thabo Bester, a fiery ‘death’ and great escape

  • Bester, who has had run-ins with the law since the age of 17, was initially believed to have died in a fire in his cell at Mangaung Prison, in Bloemfontein, on 3 May 2022.
  • In a recent statement, national police spokeswoman Brigadier Athlenda Mathe said DNA analysis showed that the charred body found in the cell was not that of the man dubbed the ‘Facebook rapist’.
  • Mathe revealed that blunt force trauma to the head had indicated the man was already dead prior to the arson incident.
  • At the time of his escape, the 44-year-old Bester was serving a life sentence for rape and the 2011 murder of his then-girlfriend, model and car saleswoman Nomfundo Tyhulu, at a Cape Town bed and breakfast.

ALSO READ: Thabo Bester escape: Inside Dr Nandipha’s ‘extraordinary lengths’ to obtain stand-in corpse

Living it up in Hyde Park hideout

Dr Nandipha Magudumana, left, posted some photos on her Instagram account of the Hyde Park mansion where she and boyfriend Thabo Bester were staying before they went on the run. Images via Instagram @drnandipha

On 16 March, GroundUp dropped the bombshell that Bester was very much alive and well.

In fact, he and Magudumana, who is also known as Dr Nandipha, were living in the lap of luxury in a R12-million Hyde Park mansion, where a police forensic investigation is currently underway.

According to TimesLIVE, the couple’s domestic worker and gardener have also been reported as missing by their respective families.

A police forensic team launched an investigation and a search for evidence at the last known hide-out of Thabo Bester, pictured left, and his girlfriend Dr Nandipha Magudumana in Hyde Park, Johannesburg. Images via twitter @MDNnewss and @Sli_Masikane

The “con couple” are believed to have been paying R60 000 a month in rent before they fell behind with their payments.

The duo clearly did not hold back when it came to spoiling themselves though. A watch, according to a Sunday Times report, worth R1.5 million was found abandoned on a bedside table on the property.

This came after Bester and Magudumana apparently realised they had “overstayed their welcome” and fled the house on 20 March, allegedly with the doctor’s two children in tow.

ALSO READ: Thabo Bester: Private security firm offers R100 000 reward for information

Magudumana, the Merc and the mystery border crossing

Startling evidence has since emerged that Magudumana had purchased a whopping R1.35 million luxury Mercedes-Benz in 2022.

The purchase of the vehicle, the bizarre border run, and the outstanding debt, along with other details, have been confirmed by the dealership where the vehicle was purchased.

The business, which had enlisted the services of private investigators in the wake of the purchase debacle, has commited to provide more details on record at a later stage.

Shortly after the purchase, Magudumana allegedly drove the vehicle across the Beitbridge border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe, and abandoned it there before returning to South Africa on foot.

This came to light after Magudumana had, for several months, failed to meet the payments for the luxury black Mercedes-Benz AMG.

According to the dealership where it was purchased, she has an outstanding debt of R700 000.

Movie script material? Baffling trip across the border

The Citizen spoke to Mark Strydom from Striker Investigations — a security and investigations firm that was tasked with tracking down the vehicle and recovering the outstanding debt owed to the dealership.

The business, which has several Johannesburg-based showrooms, specialises in the sale of high-end vehicles, such as the second-hand car Mercedes AMG E63 purchased by Magudumana.

The tale which emerges from the information revealed by Andrews and private investigator Mark Strydom, reads like the plot of a Quentin Tarantino movie script.

In video footage reportedly in possession of the dealership owner, Magudumana crossed the Beitbridge Border post into Zimbabwe with the vehicle last year.

He claims that Bester’s partner can then be seen crossing the border back into South Africa on foot. He said the footage concludes with her heading to a nearby garage where she was later picked up by a different vehicle.

The dealer was, however, unwilling to share the footage with The Citizen, though its existence has been confirmed by another source.

The mysterious third party

Sizzla “Ninja” Dube, who partnered with Striker Investigations to recover the vehicle from Zimbabwe, was told by Beitbridge border officials that the car was impounded and that it would cost $80 000 (about R1.4 million) for it to be released.

Dube’s border visit also revealed the following:

  • Border officials became suspicious when they discovered that the vehicle was fitted with false Zimbabwean number plates apparently belonging to a Toyota.
  • While Zimbabwean border staff were investigating the matter, the then unidentified female driver allegedly gave them the slip and fled across the border on foot.

According to Strydom, this seemingly senseless road trip took place around 17 January this year, shortly before he cornered the doctor at a Sandton restaurant to acknowledge her outstanding debt.

Magudumana agreed to a payment arrangement while pleading poverty, claiming that her Sandton-based aesthetic medical boutique was struggling financially.

During the meeting between Strydom and Magudumana – where other as yet unidentified individuals were also present – she concedes that she signed an agreement with the dealer for the purchase of the vehicle.

However, she refers to a third person the dealership allegedly “had the agreement with”, saying she would ask him to come to a new agreement with the dealer over the vehicle.

When asked if this person is her husband, the doctor simply insists that she would address the matter with the unnamed individual.

Watch the confrontation here:

Missing for weeks: Dr Nandipha a no-show at salon re-opening

Optimum Medical Aesthetics used to boast a clientele of local celebrities such as former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi before it closed its doors when the news of Bester’s escape broke.

ALSO READ: Celebrities who have visited Dr Nandipha’s clinic

The celebrity doctor posted on her Instagram account that the clinic would be re-opening on Wednesday 29 March.

News24 reported however that there was no sign of Magudumana at the clinic on Wednesday.

Management representatives for the Morningside building told the publication that they haven’t seen her for weeks and can’t get hold of her on her phone.

SA’s most wanted couple already across border?

According to City Press, a border alert has been issued to officials on all of South Africa’s border points to be on the look-out for Bester and his girlfriend.

Could Magudumana’s baffling trip to the border and subsequent disappearance indicate that the couple have already fled into Zimbabwe?

Specialist investigator Mike Bolhuis reckons that this could very well be the case.

“They might be in one of the neighbouring countries already.” Bolhuis told eNCA in an interview this week.

“He’s extremely connected and also very well-known and he is very rich. The newest information we have is that he’s still in possession of a lot of money, which makes it very easy for him to move around and go wherever he wants to.”

At the time of publishing, the police had not responded to requests for comment on the car at the border or the dealer’s charges against Magudumana.

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