/ 14 April 2023

Motsoaledi: Thabo Bester was never registered with home affairs

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi will respond to allegations made about the country's health system crumbling.
Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Convicted murderer and rapist Thabo Bester was never registered with the home affairs department and the only place that has a record of him is the correctional services department.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told a media briefing on Friday that the fugitive, who was recently recaptured in Tanzania with his partner, celebrity doctor Nandipha Magudumana, does not have a South African identity document, marriage certificate or passport.

“Thabo never registered with any home affairs at any stage. So, the only place where you could find him, as police have said, was in correctional services when he was an inmate. That’s where you’ll find his fingerprints and photo and the South African Police Service’s crime database,” he said.

Bester escaped from a maximum security prison in Mangaung in May 2022 by faking his own death with the use of another body, only to be tracked down 11 months later in Tanzania. He and Magudumana were brought back to South Africa on Thursday morning, after they were detained in northern Tanzania while travelling under false identities. 

On his arrival, Bester was sent to the maximum security Kgosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria. He appeared in court on Friday on charges of escaping from lawful custody, defeating the ends of justice, violation of a dead body and fraud.

At Friday’s media briefing, Motsoaledi said he had visited the woman who claims to be Bester’s mother.

“We paid her a visit and indeed she insisted that she is the mother of Thabo Bester and that she gave birth to him at Baragwanath Hospital on 13 June 1986. We rushed back to Bara and checked archives to confirm the mother’s story and, indeed, it’s true,” he said.

Motsoaledi said he had questioned why only three of the woman’s children were found in the home affairs system whereas she had claimed in a television interview to have had four children.

In response, Bester’s mother said her husband’s employer at the time had not allowed them to go to the home affairs department to register his birth.

Home affairs officials also searched for a Thapelo ‘TK Nkwana, the other name Bester used when he was behind bars, but the profiles that came up were not a match.

Motsoaledi said Bester was found in Tanzania with an American passport under the name Tom Williams Kelly.

“Whether real or defrauded, we can’t tell because we don’t have an American system, but he never purported or showed any passport which he said he got from us because we never gave him any,” the minister said.

“That passport, under the name of Tom Williams Kelly, it never crossed any border or any official port of entry, whether air, sea or land. There is no indication that that passport was ever used. We do not know why he was carrying it, but he never used it at any time.”

Motsoaledi added that Magudumana was also caught in possession of three passports, one belonging to her which was first issued in 2007 and expired in 2017, and two others belonging to another celebrity doctor, Mmereka “Pashy” Ntshani.

Ntshani had reported her passport as missing and also deposed an affidavit to say she had given it to Bester and Magudumana so they could apply for an American visa on her behalf.

Motsoaledi said he could not answer how the couple escaped the country, because the police are handling the case.

“Once you escape illegally, it is no longer home affairs that must do the investigation. We do not have that authority,” the minister added.