Johannesburg – G4S, the company managing the Mangaung maximum security prison, may again find itself in hot water following fresh allegations that the prison afforded Facebook rapist and murderer Thabo Bester and his controversial lover Dr Nandipha Magudumana conjugal visits.
This was after the Department of Correctional Services said it had launched an investigation into the allegation that Bester and Magudumana had been offered intimate time together.
Department spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said conjugal visits were not allowed in South Africa.
The department’s confirmation came after sources told The Sunday Independent that Bester had been allowed to spend hours with Magudumana inside the prison.
“We are aware of the allegations, and they are being investigated. Inmates are not afforded conjugal (visits) in South Africa,” Nxumalo said.
G4S did not respond to the questions sent to it on Thursday.
Sources inside the prison said the conjugal visits had been permitted because Bester had allegedly bribed prison officials to allow him to spend more time with Magudumana in a private room.
“This started when Magudumana started seeing Bester in jail in 2017. Bester had a lot of money, and he would just pay the officials, so they gave him a room to spend (time) with Magudumana. He would spend hours with her,” the sources said.
Another source confirmed the allegations, saying Bester had a nice life in jail.
“Those allegations are true. This is something that was happening. His lifestyle in jail was different to everyone (else’s) because he was not even eating our food in prison. Prisoners who were studying were not allowed to charge their laptops in the cells, but he was allowed (to do this).”
“Everything would change in a second when it came to him. He had an extension cord connected to his cell. I believe this is because he had money, or maybe they knew something we don’t know,” the source said.
Another inmate said the alleged preferential treatment afforded to Bester had been reported to the authorities previously, but nothing had been done.
According to media reports, Magudumana and Bester have allegedly known each other since 2006, when she was still studying at Wits University. They lost contact in 2011 after Magudumana was married and Bester was imprisoned on sexual assault and murder charges.
However, Magudumana started visiting Bester around 2017, and the pair rekindled their relationship.
G4S also confirmed to the justice and correctional services portfolio committee in Parliament that Magudumana had been a frequent visitor to the prison and started seeing Bester at the facility as early as 2017.
Last month, The Sunday Independent reported that G4S officials also used to help Bester to sneak out of the facility so that he could spend cosy nights with Magudumana in a five-star hotel in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal, with this happening just days before Bester made his escape in May 2022.
The two, together with a Mozambican national, were arrested in Arusha, Tanzania earlier last month after they had fled the country following Bester’s escape from prison.
Bester managed to get out of jail after faking his death with the help of his friends from G4S, who brought a corpse to his private cell and burned it.
So far, five prison officials who allegedly assisted Bester in his plan to escape have been arrested and have appeared before the Bloemfontein Magistrate’’s Court.
The latest official to be arrested is Mutenyane Masukela, who allegedly opened the gates for Bester.
The accused, including Magudumana, face multiple charges of fraud and corruption, as well as those relating to violating a corpse, harbouring and concealing an escaped offender, and defeating the ends of justice.
Earlier this month, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola announced his intention to terminate the contract between the government and G4S. He said the contract, which was due to expire in 2026, could no longer continue.
This was after the justice and correctional services portfolio committee last month held in inquiry into Bester’s escape at which it heard that 23 officials who had been on duty when Bester escaped were under investigation.
The committee also heard that Bester was moved into cell 35 without proper procedures having been followed, and that the cameras pointing at the cell were conveniently not working when he escaped.
Teboho Lipholo, a CCTV technician for Intercretron, a company contracted by G4S to operate the cameras, was arrested after it emerged that he had tampered with them that night.
It was also revealed that the cameras facing cell 35 were not working between 7.38pm on May 2 and 4.10am on May 3 last year.
Two officials who were working in the central control room that night were also fired for failing to report to the authorities that the cameras were not working.
Senohe Matsoara (who allegedly recruited Lipholo), Nastassja Jansen and Tieho Frans Makhotsa were also arrested and appeared before the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court, where they applied for bail with Lipholo and Masukela.
Their matter has been rolled over to Friday.
The suspects appeared alongside Magudumana, who asked that her bail application be postponed to May 16 after new evidence emerged.
Magudumana will appear with Bester and her father, Zoilie Sekeleni, who was granted bail last month.
The Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court also heard that Bester had been given a G4S uniform and had been escorted by Lipholo when he walked out of the prison.