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Cele looking for ‘sharks, not small fish’ who helped Thabo Bester escape

Police minister Bheki Cele believes investigators will identify the high level people who helped Thabo Bester to escape. File photo.
Police minister Bheki Cele believes investigators will identify the high level people who helped Thabo Bester to escape. File photo.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

Police minister Bheki Cele says police are close to finding the “sharks” who helped convicted murderer and rapist Thabo Bester escape from Mangaung Correctional Centre run by G4S. 

The “Facebook” rapist escaped from the correctional centre in Bloemfontein last May after faking his death in a prison cell fire.

Police this week arrested two more suspects for their alleged roles in his escape. The pair are former employees who were dismissed by G4S. 

They will appear before the Bloemfontein magistrate’s court on Wednesday charged with assisting an inmate to escape from lawful custody and defeating the ends of justice.

Cele said with every arrest, investigations were closer to finding the high level people who helped Bester.

“What is very clear is all [the] people who have been arrested will have to tell us who sent them because they could not have done this thing on their own,” said Cele.

“We are satisfied the team is doing good work there. We don’t want to push the team. We want them to find their way up to the level where we believe this thing originated. We know it originated with Bester, but he could not have dealt with the small fish. At a certain point, we’ll have to get sharks in the matter.”

Eight suspects have been arrested to date, including Bester‘s lover Dr Nandipha Magudumana, her father Zolile Cornelius Sekeleni, former G4S employee Sehone Matsoara and CCTV technician Teboho Lipholo.

Sekeleni was granted R10,000 bail last month on condition he reports to the Port Edward police station once a week, remains within the magisterial district of Port Edward and does not contact any of the state’s witnesses.

Justice minister Ronald Lamola said the department of correctional services served a 90-day notice to terminate the controversial private-public partnership at Mangaung Correctional Centre. 

The department and the Bloemfontein Correctional contracts entered into a partnership in 2000 that was due to end in June 2026. This led to a deal with the multinational security company G4S, which was subcontracted by the department to operate the prison.

The deal cost R7.7bn between 2001 and the 2021/2022 financial year, with the department paying R45m a month for the contract.



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