Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has confirmed that Thabo Bester is a legitimate name for the convicted rapist and murderer. However, he said the recaptured fugitive has no identity document because his birth was never registered with the Department of Home Affairs when he was born at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital on June 13, 1986. Motsoaledi held a three-hour media briefing in Pretoria to explain what their investigations uncovered in relation to Bester’s real identity.Bester has reportedly used assumed names in the past, including TK Nkwana and Tom Motsepe. Recently, he went under the name Tommy William Kelly. According to Motsoaledi, the National Population Register (NPR) only found two people with the name Thabo Bester. “In the NPR we found only two Thabo Besters in South Africa. One is a young man of 19 years, and hence we decided that we eliminate him from the search process. He was not a man of interest.
“The other Thabo Bester is a man of 40 years, and we traced him to Rathanda in Heidelberg, and we visited him and found that he had already presented himself to the police when he heard that there is a Thabo Bester who is wanted. Police confirmed that he is not the person they were looking for,” said Motsoaledi. He said the Department of Home Affairs’ investigators also searched databases for the names of non-South Africans but found no one under the Thabo Bester name. “We then heard from you in the media that this man is using the name Thapelo Nkwana or TK Nkwana. Soon, we switched our search to Thapelo Nkwana because Thabo Bester was drawing blanks.
“Our system revealed 16 Thapelo Nkwanas on the National Population Register, but none of them (matched) the picture of the man who escaped from prison. The photos clearly showed that this is not the man we are looking for,” he said. Motsoaledi conceded that they had run out of ideas on how to identify the notorious Bester, who is now in police custody. “We were really stuck, and we actually concluded at that time that (he) might be an illegal immigrant in South Africa because he could not be found on any system. “We were about to conclude when we learned from TV that there is a lady who appeared on TV and declared that (she) is Thabo Bester’s mother. We paid her a visit and indeed she insisted that she is the mother of Thabo Bester.
“She even gave us his date of birth and told us that she gave birth to this gentleman at Baragwanath Hospital on the 13th of June 1986. Indeed, we rushed to Bara Hospital and checked their archives. What the lady told us is true,” he said.The minister said the mother, who was recorded as Meisie Bester, had not registered her son after birth.”Thabo Bester does actually exist as Thabo Bester. The mother said she had four children, but on the system there were only three children. She explained how it happened.
“She was born in 1965 to a lady whose name was Magagula. The grandmother was born in 1938 and she was a Bester. Thabo’s mother herself was not registered. They did a late registration of birth.”The mother of Thabo was registered at the age of 37. She took over her aunt’s surname, Mabaso, and all her three kids were registered under Mabaso. She said she couldn’t register Thabo because at age 16 he disappeared and nobody knew where he was.
“She was able to tell us the school which Thabo went to. She insisted that Thabo passed Standard 1. Obviously, we were very curious how a person passing Standard 1 (could) dupe doctors and all of that. Anyway, I also belong to that profession, I was a bit jealous,” Motsoaledi.
Motsoaledi added that they confirmed that Bester registered at the school in question, south of Johannesburg, without any identification documents.
“They just registered him with a date of birth, 13th June 1986. It corresponds exactly with what is in the labour ward at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. Thabo attended there, and it is true, as the mother said, he left that school in 2002.
“This year 2002 is very significant. It is the year at which Thabo left the school but is also the age at which his grandmother died. He was not in Grade 1 as the lady had said but he was at Grade 5, which is Standard 3. You can forgive the mother for mixing things up,” the minister said.
The minister conceded that Bester was never in any of the Home Affairs systems.”Hever took an Identity Document, never got married, never took a passport at Home Affairs. He simply did not exist on our system. Thabo doesn’t have any passport with Home Affairs. The passport he was found carrying in Tanzania appears to be an American passport in the name of Tommy William Kelly.
“That passport never crossed any border at any official port of entry, whether Sea or land. There is no indication that the passport was ever used. We don’t know why he was carrying it, but he never used it,” Motsoaledi said.
Meanwhile Bester appeared at the Bloemfontein Magistrate Court under heavy police guard on charges of murder, escaping from lawful custody and violating a corpse. Through his lawyers, he raised concerns about his safety in the custody of the Department of Correctional Services, saying he feared to be poisoned. He said he had not eaten in jail since he was deported back from Tanzania in the early morning of yesterday. The court said it did not have locus standi or jurisdiction to hear that complaint. The case has been postponed to May 16. Bester has been remanded in custody.