“If these reports are found to be true, this would prove to be the most sensational escape in the history of our nation” says ministerial spokesperson
- GroundUp can confirm that Dr Nandipha Magudumana was seen shopping with a man who looks like Thabo Bester, almost two months after the prison fire thought to have killed Bester.
- More details on Bester’s links to Magudumana and her businesses are also starting to surface.
- Authorities say investigations are still ongoing.
A photo newly leaked to GroundUp confirms that Dr Nandipha Magudumana accompanied a man resembling Thabo Bester at a Sandton shop in June last year, almost two months after a prison fire that was announced to have killed Bester.
More details have emerged of Bester’s apparent links to Magudumana’s multiple businesses.
The story so far
Thabo Bester, known as the “Facebook Rapist”, was serving a life sentence for rape and murder at the Mangaung Correctional Centre, a private prison managed by multinational security company G4S. A fire broke out in the cell where Bester was kept in May 2022 and a body was found beneath a mattress, burned beyond recognition. The incident was originally ruled a suicide.
We have since revealed that the body was dead before the fire broke out, that the body’s DNA did not match that of the person claiming to be Bester’s mother, and a host of other suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire.
Magudumana, a celebrity aesthetics doctor based in Sandton, claimed the body shortly after the fire but it was confiscated by police for further investigations. She approached the Pretoria high court to have the body returned to her, claiming to be Bester’s “customary law wife”.
Bester’s links to Dr Nandi’s businesses
It appears that the same man pictured shopping with Magudumana has been contacting people on behalf of Arum Holdings, a company solely owned by Magudumana.
Screenshots circulating on social media display a text conversation between Arum Holdings’ Instagram account and an anonymous person in August and September 2022. The person was invited by someone using the Arum Holdings Instagram account to a meeting to discuss a potential collaboration on an upcoming Netflix series, “Hot property chick”.
A screenshot of the Zoom meeting shows a man resembling Thabo Bester in a luxury car wearing a designer watch. The man has the same facial features as the man in the photos taken in Sandton.
But we must emphasise that GroundUp has not yet been able to verify the authenticity of the above.
Several other people have taken to social media with similar stories about Arum Holdings. GroundUp has been able to verify at least one of these stories, in which someone was asked to travel to Cape Town at their own cost to audition for a Netflix show.
Arum Holdings doesn’t have a working website (its last archived state is from 18 December 2021), and according to its Instagram page, which was still active 16 March, it appears to advertise high-end properties. Arum Holdings (Pty) Ltd was registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) in 2017, with Magudumana as a sole director.
The Instagram accounts of Arum Holdings, and of I Media and Optimum Medical Solutions, all owned by Magudumana, seem to have been deactivated since Thursday night.
Magudumana approached the Pretoria High Court in May 2022, asking for custody of the body, which she said was Bester’s. Magudumana confirmed in her court affidavit that she made payments to Bester while he was in prison and that she paid Sopema Funerals in Soweto for services rendered while they had possession of the body found in Bester’s cell.
Receipts submitted as evidence to the court show that R3,600 was paid by Arum Holdings (Pty) Ltd to Sopema Funerals. Another R3,600 was paid to Sopema Funerals from the account of Vita Push (Pty) Ltd.
Magudumana’s affidavit also shows that she made a number of payments of between R400 and R2,000 to Bester while he was in prison. She also paid an amount of R7,203 to Damelin College, supposedly for a course Bester was doing.
Magudumana is also the sole director of “I Media”, a production company that creates a variety of multimedia content. It was registered as a company in 2020. Earlier this year, Magudumana posted a video on the I Media Instagram account.
An anonymous source who worked closely with “I Media” told GroundUp that they had several video meetings with a man who looked like Thabo Bester. These meetings happened while Bester was still in prison.
Magudumana did not respond to GroundUp’s questions for this article.
Where are the authorities?
In the wake of our reports, Minister of Police Bheki Cele, answering questions from journalists during a press conference on Friday, according to Heidi Giokos of ENCA, said that the identity of the body found in Bester’s cell has not been confirmed through DNA. He said he will discuss the matter with Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola.
Spokesperson for Free State SAPS, Brigadier Motantsi Makhele, told GroundUp that the investigation “has reached a very critical stage, therefore it won’t be in the interest of justice to give any comment now, as advised by the investigating team”.
He said “the team is already aware of all the information making rounds on the matter”.
“The absence of a final investigative report from any above report makes it difficult authoritatively [to answer] the questions raised,” said Chrispin Phiri, spokesperson for Minister Lamola, in response to GroundUp.
“If these reports are found to be true, this would prove to be the most sensational escape in the history of our nation,” he said.
“The Minister has instructed the National Commissioner to do everything which is necessary to ensure that there is finality on the matter.”
It is unclear why more than ten months after Bester supposedly died, there is still no publicly known result of a DNA test that once and for all confirms whether or not the burnt body found in the cell is Bester’s.