/ 20 April 2023

Another G4S guard in court over Thabo Bester’s prison break

G4S is the world’s biggest private security company. (Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

A fifth suspect has been added to the list of people who allegedly helped convicted murderer and rapist Thabo Bester escape from the Mangaung maximum security prison in the Free State last May.

The G4S security guard, Motenyane Masukela, appeared in the Bloemfontein magistrate’s court on Thursday on one charge of assisting an inmate to escape. He does not have previous convictions.  

Prosecutor Sello Matlhoko said the state would oppose bail. 

The matter has been formally joined with that of five other suspects, including Bester and his accomplice, celebrity doctor and businesswoman Nandipha Magudumana, her father Zolile Sikelele, former G4S employee Senohe Matsoara and camera technician Teboho Lipholo.

Lipholo, who was the third suspect to be detained, was an employee at Integritron Integrated Solutions, the company contracted to install and maintain cameras at Mangaung prison. 

Masukela will appear in court with his co-accused — except Bester — on 3 and 4 May, when they will formally apply for bail. Sikelele was granted bail of R10 000 with conditions on Monday. 

Masukela was arrested on Tuesday at Mangaung prison and is the second security guard to be added to the list of suspects employed by the multinational security company, G4S which runs the correctional centre. 

Since Bester’s May 2022 stint of staging his own death came to light nearly a year later, the department of correctional services is temporarily managing the prison. 

On Wednesday, the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) said more employees at the prison appeared to have known about Bester’s planned escape than those already facing criminal or disciplinary charges. 

During a “fact-finding mission” to Mangaung prison, the union found that many staff members were well aware of Bester’s plan to escape from the maximum security prison “but they were kept in abeyance by majorities”, said Popcru’s president, Zizamele Cebekhulu.

More arrests are anticipated.

Evidence presented under oath in parliament last week suggests negligence on the part of  the police, the correctional services department and the justice department.

Police Minister Bheki Cele previously told the Mail & Guardian that the police service was not ruling out an investigation into its own officers.