/ 11 September 2023

‘Flight risk’ Nandipha Magudumana denied bail

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Dr Nandipha Magudumana at a previous court appearance. Photo by Gallo Images/Frikkie Kapp

Celebrity doctor Nandipha Magudumana, who allegedly assisted convicted rapist and murderer Thabo Bester to escape from prison in 2022, was denied bail in the Bloemfontein magistrate’s court on Monday. 

The matter was postponed to 11 October. 

Magistrate Estelle de Lange ruled Magudumana to be “a definite flight risk and that no bail condition will assist under the circumstances to limit this risk”.

“I find that she did not satisfy the court that it is in the interest of justice for her to be released on bail. The application to be released on bail is refused,” De Lange said.

The court took into account the fact that Magudumana supplied false information regarding her address of residence in April when she provided one to the police that she had already vacated a month before. 

It was further important to the court’s findings that Bester and Magudumana left the country in a rented vehicle, which indicated “that they intended to leave the country so that they would not be traced”, De Lange said.

Bester and Magudumana were returned to South Africa in April after being detained in Tanzania, having been on the run since Bester escaped from the Mangaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein in May 2022.

Magudumana’s arguments that she would suffer financial loss and would be separated from her children did not convince the court to release her on bail on Monday.

Instead, it said, all the evidence showed that Magudumana left the country “voluntarily” and “deserted her family and her business to leave with accused number five [Bester]”. 

“The applicant did not present any evidence to court of the contrary, except for stating under oath in her affidavit that she was kidnapped by him. There is strong evidence by the state which is not supporting her allegation that accused number five kidnapped her.”

In handing down the judgment, De Lange said Magudumana appeared to be in “good health”. 

“Whenever she appeared before me she appeared to be well groomed and in a good state of health. I’m confident that all her reasonable needs are met during the period of detention,” the magistrate said.

It is Magudumana’s third failed court application since she was arrested in Tanzania five months ago. 

Her application for leave to appeal the Free State high court ruling that she had consented to return to South Africa, was dismissed with costs on 5 June after she asked the court in May to declare her arrest in Tanzania and extradition to South Africa unlawful. 

She wanted the court to order that she be released from custody and to rule that the magistrates’ court does not have jurisdiction to try her. But Judge Phillip Loubser found that Magudumana had indeed been extradited without process, but that she had consented to board the chartered plane that brought her back to South Africa.

Magudumana was arrested alongside Bester and faces several charges, including fraud, aiding an escape and violating dead bodies. 

Twelve people stand accused in the Bester escape saga and face a total of 16 charges. The trial is expected to be heard in the Bloemfontein high court where the state will present 18 witnesses to testify.