South Africa


Facebook rapist: Deputy Minister was informed by warder that Thabo Bester escaped

Facebook rapist: Deputy Minister was informed by warder that Thabo Bester escaped
Government appears to have been informed nine months ago that Thabo Bester escaped. Illustration: Lisa Nelson

It appears that a sentenced rapist inmate ‘allegedly’ burnt to death at Mangaung Correctional Center was instead assisted in his escape. But since a warder reported the matter, nothing appears to have been done about it.

On 11 June 2022, a prison warder at Mangaung Correctional Center sent an email to the Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, Phathekile Holomisa, asking: “Are you aware that the inmate who ‘allegedly’ burnt to death at Mangaung Correctional Center was supposedly assisted by the Mangaung Correctional Center & Department of Correctional Services officials at the prison to escape?”

The prisoner in question was Thabo Bester, known as the “Facebook rapist”, who was serving a life sentence for murder and a series of rapes.

The Department of Correctional Services reported that Bester died in Mangaung Correctional Centre at about 3.35am on 3 May 2022. The official version was that Bester set himself alight in his cell. The facility is managed by multinational security company G4S.

GroundUp has since reported evidence indicating that the body found in the cell was not Bester’s, and that Bester in fact escaped. He has been spotted in public several times since the supposed date of his death. The body in the cell has not been identified, but that person who died suffered blunt force trauma before being set alight, according to a coroner’s report. A police docket related to the case was changed from suicide to murder.

Months after his June email on 8 November, the warder sent another email to Holomisa:

“Good Day Sir, I informed you of the Thabo Bester escape [in] my previous email … your office & … the DCS [have] ignored my emails notifying you of this.”

No action taken

It appears no action was taken, following the warder’s emails.

Yet, according to Justice Ministry spokesperson Chrispin Phiri, the deputy minister is unable to locate the emails in question, but they’re doing all they can to track it.

The warder said that after reporting the alleged “cover up” to the deputy minister, he was victimised and later transferred from the facility.

“It’s not the first incident that I’ve reported. I sent him [deputy minister] a number of emails about the gang stabbings, corruption and treatment of inmates,” the warder told GroundUp.


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Holomisa had previously replied to an email sent to him by the warder on 19 April 2022. That email dealt with conditions at the prison.

The warder added that it was an “open secret” that the body in Cell 35, was not that of Bester and “I informed the [deputy] minister … the way the whole [crime scene] thing was handled, no protocol was followed. There [were] too many red flags and we [colleagues] suspect this was an inside job from night shift [staff].”

Claims made by the warder about the events of the night of Bester’s escape corroborate with other sources we spoke to. GroundUp is piecing together a timeline of the events of 3 May, and intends to publish it in due course. DM

First published by GroundUp.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Useless knows no limits. Neither does lazy. This minister should be charged at the very least for knowingly allowing innocent South Africans to be put at risk.

  • Jaqueline Perkes says:

    The fish rots from the head down

  • Rory Short says:

    Signs of a Mafia State where State institutions collaborate with criminals and criminal organisations.

  • Francoise Armour says:

    A cover up? An inside job? A killer allowed to escape? What a surprise.

  • Jenny Groenewald says:

    Whistle Blowers as always victimised, and this Holomisa will probably get a promotion. How can we have any faith that we will EVER tackle corruption, when even those named never face any consequences. Where are you Mr Cele and Mr Lamola? Are you blind and deaf?

  • Rona van Niekerk says:

    And they wonder why de Ruyter eventually gave up and went public. What are the odds that the whistle blower in this case will be victimized and made to resign?

    • Simon Winde says:

      If de Ruyter would have left without doing what he did, while the brass knew as he had informed them, nada would have happened. It’s only because of him going public at least something happened. Like with this warden, everyone knew or suspected it, nothing happened. Let’s hope they catch him soon.

  • David Forbes says:

    Deputy Minister must to straight to jail. Unbelievable they “can’t trace” the emails. G4S also needs serious investigation, as this British-owned company should not be in charge of our prisons.

  • Shirley Gobey says:

    Honestly, the moral decay in this country is unbelievable. Are there no capable honourable people in the govt services? It is spine chilling.

  • Jane Hohls says:

    Thank you for this story. If unequivocally proven – the publish remain at risk from a ‘lifer’ guilty of such serious crimes against the citizens of South Africa.
    There seems to be no end to the complicity in our society. Heaven help us all.

  • Brendan Murray says:

    The problem here is on the SA prison system, inmates are left alone from 6pm to 6am. Are competent wardens appointed during this time or simply glorified cleaners? When the bribe is 3x your monthly salary it’s hard to say no. Low wages= low skill/high risk employees…

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