Thabo Bester put the con into convict. The convicted rapist and murderer, led a fantastic (using the original meaning related to fantasy) life until now. While serving his life sentence at the Mangaung Correctional Centre, he managed to first ensnare the beautiful Dr Nandipha Magudumana and inveigle her into his conman lifestyle. He then proceeded to create a fake persona, one Tom Mosepe, a fake business empire, 21st Century Media, and successfully run a massive scam from a zoom studio within the prison! This starts to put the original ‘Catch Me If You Can’ protagonist in the shade. He then went one step further. He escaped without anyone knowing about it.
By bribing several prison officials and getting his beloved Nandi to do the grunt work, he managed to get a dead body burnt in his cell in the dead of night and slipped out unnoticed into something more comfortable on 3 May 2022. I can just imagine the advert that Nandi would have placed in the Jobs section of Gumtree.
WANTED: Body double wanted for a remake of The Crypt which is about the undead. A once in a lifetime opportunity to make easy money. No experience required.
That was part un of the greatest South African pantomime ever. Part duh is what the official organisations did about it.
The next 9½ months witnessed a bizarre dance between the DCS (Department of Correctional Services), G4S (the private security company who ran the prison, oops, correctional centre), the SAPS (South African Police), JICS (Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services) and the DoJ (Department of Justice). All that was missing in the mendacious menagerie was the DOOS (Department of Officious and Odious Supernumeraries).
On 11 August, SAPS provided JICS with a copy of the autopsy stating that the body did not die in the fire and that it’s DNA did not match Bester’s. Did SAPS open a case? No!
The buck passing by the five groups involved, and the failure by any party to admit that Bester was actually dining out with Nandi’s at home enjoying her hot sauce, is too Byzantine to relate. Suffice to say, it took the investigative team of GroundUp to elicit routine denials when they published their first article on 8 November. The official response was a profound insouciance (the antidote to Nandi’s hot sauce), if not outright denial. This laissez affaire attitude continued with GroundUp grinding them down until 15 March 2023 when the DCS finally admitted that Bester was in the wind.
The silly saga was not yet played out. After Thabo and Nandi were captured in Tanzania, another three-letter acronym had the final say. During the subsequent parliamentary inquiry, the DHA (Department of Home Affairs) revealed that far from being undead, Thabo was, in fact, unborn as they have no records of him!