South Africa’s most wanted fugitive, “Thabo Bester”, has been arrested in Tanzania while attempting to flee that country late last night.
Bester, who escaped custody from the Mangaung Correctional Service Centre in the Free State a year ago after faking suicide, was finally traced in east Africa with his lover, Dr Nandipha Magudumana and an unnamed Mozambican national.
During a press briefing held in Pretoria this afternoon, Police Minister Bheki Cele said the three fugitives were arrested after a surveillance operation by Tanzanian police.
He said law enforcement agencies working closely with South African authorities and Interpol arrested the trio in Arusha, 10km from the Kenyan border, after following them from a hotel in Dar es Salaam.
The two locations are 624km apart, or a 10-hour drive, according to Google maps.
“They were spotted by the people that are working with South Africa. They were followed as they (were leaving) the hotel in a black SUV, heading for the border.
“They were leaving Tanzania. They were leaving Dar es Salaam. It was also discovered there that they had several passports with different names. “How they moved around will not be explained because it is illegal. What we know is that they have several passports each and not a single one has been stamped,” he said.
Cele said a team has been dispatched to Tanzania to look at how they can bring the fugitives back.
“If needs be that we send some machine, or some aeroplane, to fetch them, we will be doing that so that we make sure they don’t slip off,” he said.
Cele conceded that Bester’s real name was currently unknown.
“The best-placed people to answer the question (of names) would be Home Affairs, who would have gone to find their names and all that.
“It is only Bester that appears there. At one time is Motsepe, other times he is Mkwelana or Kwena. The Home Affairs will be helping us in that regard,” Cele said.
Justice, Correctional Services and Constitutional Development Minister Ronald Lamola dismissed concerns about South Africa’s extradition of wanted suspects, especially in relation to the Gupta brothers in the UAE and Shepherd Bushiri in Malawi.
“One of the fugitives is a convicted person; the gentleman called Thabo Bester. It’s a straight deportation case for him to come back to serve his sentence.
“The second one is the doctor. As you are well aware, there is already a warrant of arrest issued by the South African police relating to her and issues related to Interpol.
“As the authorities go to Tanzania tomorrow, they are going to look at the possible way of quickly bringing her back to South Africa to face justice. It is a process that we believe will be doable because of the good mutual cooperation that we have with the Tanzanians,” said Lamola.
He said their priority was dealing with Bester and Magudumana.
Meanwhile, prison authorities are still grappling with identifying the person whose body was burned in Bester’s cell at the Mangaung facility.
Lamola’s department has since referred the 25-year contract between G4S and Correctional Services to their lawyers for a legal opinion.
This week, private company G4S, which manages the Mangaung Correctional Service Centre on behalf of the government, snubbed a parliamentary committee meeting looking into Bester’s escape.
While the EFF has welcomed Bester’s rearrest, the country’s third biggest political party has labelled the escape the work of corruption.
“Bester’s escape is a combination of gross corruption of senior Correctional Service officials and criminals.
“It is worse that G4S, which failed to appear before Parliament to account on the escape of Bester from a facility they run, was adamant that Bester did in act commit suicide despite forensic evidence,” said EFF spokesperson Sinawo Thambo.