Defend Truth


Facebook rapist — warder told deputy minister that Thabo Bester had escaped

Facebook rapist — warder told deputy minister that Thabo Bester had escaped
The government appears to have been told nine months ago that Thabo Bester had escaped. (Illustration: Lisa Nelson)

It appears that a sentenced rapist inmate who ‘allegedly’ burnt to death at Mangaung Correctional Centre was instead helped to 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 Centre 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 Centre was supposedly assisted to escape by the Mangaung Correctional Centre & Department of Correctional Services officials at the prison… ?”

The inmate 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 the multinational security company G4S.

GroundUp has since reported evidence indicating that the body found in the cell was not Bester, and 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 the 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.”

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 them.

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 [the deputy minister] a number of emails about the gang stabbings, corruption and treatment of inmates,” the warder told GroundUp.

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 Bester.“I informed the [deputy] minister… the way the whole 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 are corroborated by 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.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.8% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.2% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.2% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.2%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options