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Thabo Bester’s diet, clothing and access to attorneys in spotlight as case resumes in high court

Icy reunion between Thabo Bester and Nandipha Magudumana after previous displays of affection in court

Thabo Bester and his co-accused in court in Bloemfontein. File image.
Thabo Bester and his co-accused in court in Bloemfontein. File image.
Image: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images

Aspects of convicted rapist and murderer Thabo Bester's imprisonment came under the spotlight as the matter resumed in the Bloemfontein high court on Wednesday.

Bester and Nandipha Magudumana appeared in court with seven co-accused linked to his dramatic escape from Mangaung maximum security prison in May 2022.

Thabo Bester is a diabetic on chronic medication
Complaint lodged about food he is being given

The matter was transferred from the Bloemfontein magistrate's court late last year after a lengthy bail application.

Bester, Magudumana and Zanda Moyo remain in custody while the rest of the accused are out on bail of R10,000 each.

There was no loved-up reunion for Bester and his girlfriend before the matter resumed as Magudumana walked past her lover and embraced her father Zolile Sekeleni, who is a co-accused.

She spent most of the time before court started reading a Bible on her lap.

There was a change in seating arrangements as the couple were placed far apart compared with previous appearances. Magudumana was accused No 1 on Wednesday, while Bester moved to accused No 7.

There were also changes in legal representatives for some of the accused.

Lawyer Mohamed Seedat appeared for Bester after the termination of Jan Loubser and, before that, Peter Matee's mandates. 

Moyo's lawyer announced his withdrawal from the matter as his mandate was terminated while legal aid came in as a replacement for him and accused No 5 Joel Makhetha.

Listen to Bester's grievances with prison:

“This was supposed to be a pretrial [hearing], but as [a result] of the events that happened, a pretrial is not going to happen today [Wednesday,” prosecutor advocate Amanda Bester said.

“So we've agreed among us, and I've also compiled a draft order regarding the rest of the proceedings, if it's in order with everyone, until June 5 for pretrial.”

Before this was granted, issues were raised by legal representatives. The most contentious related to Bester, whose lawyer raised issues about the food Bester was being served as a diabetic on chronic medication, his choice of clothing and alleged denial of access to his legal representatives.

Seedat, whose mandate started on Wednesday, said the issue wasn't Bester's refusal to eat the food given to him, specifically breakfast at Grootvlei. “The issue is if he [eats] that meal, my client is a diabetic and the food provided to him [would have] spiked his sugar levels. They have not taken that into consideration

“If they had, they would've offered him food consistent with food given to someone with diabetes. He has medication which he has to take and he cannot take that because he hasn't [eaten],” he said.

Seedat alleged Bester had been denied “phone calls” or access to his legal representatives while in prison. The most recent incident was on Tuesday.

Bester also accused correctional services officers of choosing the clothes he wore to court.

In response, the prosecution said the issues raised by Bester were best directed to correctional services as he is a convicted offender, but Bester raised his hand to show his displeasure.

Judge Joseph Mhlambi urged Seedat to take these matters up with the relevant authorities.

“The aspect of the phone calls, I think that is a serious matter and I think instead of treating it slapdash, you should take instructions because it seems as if this is going to be a long trial,” he said.

Other issues dealt with included an application to alter one of the bail conditions for Tieho Makhotsa. His attorney asked for a change in the police station he was ordered to report to, Kagisanong, to Mangaung, which is closer for him.

The draft order on financial instructions was also tackled, but was deferred to June 5 during the pretrial hearing.

TimesLIVE


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