Thabo Bester saga — Nandipha Magudumana denied bail, deemed ‘flight risk’
Bloemfontein magistrate says ‘nothing would stand in her way’ to assist Bester escape again.
Nandipha Magudumana was denied bail in the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court on Monday. Magudumana faces several charges related to convicted rapist and murderer Thabo Bester’s escape from prison in May 2022.
The magistrate found that Magudumana “is a definite flight risk” and if she was released on bail, “nothing would stand in her way” to assist Bester escape from prison again.
Magudumana faces several charges which include assisting an escape, fraud, corruption, and violating bodies. Magudumana was arrested in Tanzania in April 2023 alongside Bester. She has been detained in Kroonstad prison since then.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Damning timeline — Government knew of Thabo Bester escape as early as October 2022 but failed to act
In her bail application, Magudumana claimed that she was kidnapped by Bester and taken to Tanzania against her will. She also said that she intended to stay with her friend in Sandton and that she could not flee the country because her passport was confiscated when she was arrested.
But in her judgment on Monday, Magistrate Estelle de Lange found that there was little evidence to back up Magudmana’s kidnapping claim. She said all available evidence indicated that Magudumana chose to leave her children and business behind in March 2023 to flee the country with Bester.
As for the passport, de Lange said that “the evidence indicates that she does not really need a passport to leave the country,” referring to Magudumana and Bester’s arrest in Tanzania. They had managed to cross several border posts without using her passport.
De Lange ruled that no bail conditions would be sufficient in preventing Magudumana from committing similar crimes to those she is charged with.
“The applicant is facing many charges of a serious nature, of dishonesty and deceit,” de Lange said. Magudumana will likely be sentenced to a long period in prison if she is convicted of the crimes, she said.
Magudumana was in good health and was “well-groomed” when appearing in court, de Lange said. She added that she had not received any complaints from Magudumana over the conditions in which she was being detained.
De Lange said that it was in the interest of justice not to permit Magudumana’s release.
Magudumana will return to the Bloemfontein Magistrates’ Court on 11 October alongside the 11 co-accused.
The state’s case against Magudumana
In an affidavit presented during Magandumana’s bail hearing, investigating officer Lieutenant Captain Tieho Flyman told the court that Magudumana and Bester were the “masterminds” of Bester’s escape.
Flyman said that Magudumana and Bester had promised prison warder Senohe Matsoara millions of rand to assist with the escape, but only paid him R85,000. Matsoara then recruited other officials to assist.
Nine employees from the Mangaung Correctional Centre currently face charges related to Bester’s escape.
Bester escaped by faking his death in a fire, leaving behind a body burned beyond recognition.
According to Flyman, Magudumana claimed a body from the state morgue in Bloemfontein, alleging that the person was her father. A burial was held and a coffin was buried filled with meat.
But the first attempt at escape was unsuccessful and the body was dumped in a river in Bloemfontein, Flyman said.
About a month later, Magudumana claimed a second body from a hospital in Bloemfontein, Flyman said. This body was later identified as that of Katlego Bereng. Bereng’s body was smuggled into Bester’s prison cell and burned.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Thabo Bester saga — Escape decoy body of Katlego Bereng buried in Bloemfontein
Magudumana then claimed the burned body, at the time believed to be Bester, from the state morgue, claiming that she was Bester’s girlfriend. She arranged for the body to be taken to Johannesburg to be cremated. But police confiscated the body.
Magudumana then approached the Pretoria high court, saying that she was Bester’s customary law wife. Flyman alleged that Magudumana’s affidavit in the court case was fraudulent and that her lawyer, Vuyo Manisi had circulated a fraudulent court order, not the one handed down by the court. DM
First published by GroundUp.