Thabo Bester asks court to send him for the hangman's noose

Thursday June 06 2024
Thabo Bester

South African fugitive Thabo Bester who was arrested by Tanzania police on April 7, 2023. PHOTO | COURTESY


South Africa's convicted rapist and murderer Thabo Bester has made a startling plea in court, asking that he gets capital punishment – the death penalty on him.

Death penalty was abolished in South Africa in 1995 although the courts had largely avoided it from 1990 amid the clamour for the end of the then apartheid rule. 

Mr Bester's request to a judge in the Free State High Court on Wednesday didn't end there.

The famous criminal is also seeking the release of his co-accused, who are facing charges related to his prison escape.

Read: SA woman behind Bester’s jail break

Mr Bester is known as the "Facebook rapist", for using the social media site to lure his victims by pretending to be an agent who was going to help girls find jobs on television.


In his lengthy outburst in court, he said: “I feel it’s unfair for these people who are sitting here as my so-called co-accused to be in court when I know very well that they have nothing to do with this.

“Your Honour, I say this as a broken man, and I say this wholeheartedly; it tears me apart to see these people in this court, knowing well that they are suffering for something they know nothing about.”

Mr Bester went on to quote legislation that has since been repealed in South Africa, requesting that he be given the death penalty via a petition that the public will sign.

“Immediately, I will agree to it, and we can end this matter. I came here with 80 cars; I woke up at 2am. I’ve been having chains on my feet. My feet are ice. I cannot feel my toes at this point. This is not the way I want to proceed, your Honour,” he added in court.

“If it means that this court can accept the petition and the public can sign it, then we can put all this to rest. I am at peace. I know what I’ve done and what I have not done.”

Mr Bester, already facing life imprisonment for his past crimes, appeared in court without legal representation after his latest lawyers withdrew due to a reported dispute over fees. He has been granted seven days to secure new counsel.

The convicted criminal, along with his girlfriend Nandipha Magudumana and seven others, was in court for a pretrial hearing in May 2022 connected to his escape from Mangaung prison.

Read: What it cost SA to return fugitive Thabo Bester

The group is caught up in a legal saga tied to Mr Bester’s escape from the Mangaung Correctional Centre in May 2022.

The escape involved the alleged use of Katlego Bereng’s body as a decoy. Bereng’s body was said to have been smuggled into the facility and later set alight in Bester’s cell to stage his death.

Bester is facing charges related to escaping from prison. This comes on top of his life sentence and 25-year jail term for murdering his then-girlfriend, Nomfundo Tyhulu, and robbery in 2012.

On the other hand, his co-accused are charged with defeating the ends of justice and aiding an inmate’s escape. 

While Mr Bester, his celebrity doctor lover Magudumana, and driver Zanda Moyo remain behind bars, the remaining seven co-accused are out on bail of R10,000 (Ksh68950) each.

This comes after Mr Bester's initial reports of death in his cell at Mangaung prison turned out to be a hoax. Investigations by GroundUp revealed he was living lavishly in Sandton with his girlfriend, Nandipha Magudumana.

The couple then fled to Tanzania with fake passports but were eventually apprehended near the Kenyan border and extradited to South Africa to face charges.

During the court appearance, Mr Bester also blamed "political watchdogs meddling" for his situation, implying their involvement caused "all this" to happen.

He delivered an emotional plea, criticising the Department of Correctional Services. Mr Bester claimed his lawyer calls were recorded and expressed concerns about his mental health due to limited human contact for 15 months.

In the same breath, Mr Bester expressed frustration over restrictions placed on his court attire. He specifically objected to being advised against wearing name-brand clothing, believing it unfairly influenced public perception of his case.

“I've been segregated from everyone for the past 15 months and have had no access or contact with any human except for the [guard] who sits outside my door. I feel for my mental health and other issues. It's unfair and not presenting me in the best [light],” Bester said, claiming that the media treated him unfairly and unequally.

“I believe if I don't speak for myself, who's going to do that for me? Because I'm going to come here and get remand after remand, it's going to be as if I want to delay this matter. I'm nearly done with my sentence, and I want to finish this matter.

“I don't feel I'm being equally treated like any other accused person in the country. You have the media, which has tarnished and destroyed me [based] on no facts or evidence. It's confirmed I escaped, but no one knows the true facts. It's confirmed that Thabo Bester is a rapist and murderer, but there's no evidence. I am self-convicted [and] pleaded guilty [to Tyhulu's murder].

“I have been out for a year. I'm not the worst inmate in this country [or] one with the highest counts, but I'm the most popular inmate for no reason [except] for the political issues I have in my personal capacity that have nothing to do with these legal proceedings.”