‘Tracking Thabo Bester’ is a dark and twisted tale of a Facebook swindler who took Mzansi for a ride

Notorious Facebook rapist Thabo Bester and his celebrity doctor girlfriend Dr Nandipha Magudumana are the subject of the Showmax doccie, ‘Tracking Thabo Bester’. Picture: Supplied

Notorious Facebook rapist Thabo Bester and his celebrity doctor girlfriend Dr Nandipha Magudumana are the subject of the Showmax doccie, ‘Tracking Thabo Bester’. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 22, 2024


SA’s real-life “Bonnie and Clyde” saga involving notorious Facebook rapist Thabo Bester and his celebrity doctor girlfriend Dr Nandipha Magudumana has had Mzansi transfixed for the past year.

Social media users had a field day weighing in on the unfolding saga as Bester and Magudumana went on the run after his jailbreak was exposed.

Unsurprisingly, a documentary was made for Showmax, despite the ongoing trial.

A last-minute effort to stop the four-part doccie from airing on the streaming platform on Friday, March 15, failed, and the show made history as it clocked the most first-day viewers of any of Showmax's previous documentaries.

The public interest in the case was evident by the social media commentary and show ratings.

That “Tracking Thabo Bester” is produced by the award-winning IdeaCandy production house, which is behind “Rosemary’s Hitlist”, “Devilsdorp” and “Steinheist”, amplified the appeal.

Nikki Comninos has done a stellar job of presenting the facts, allowing the viewers to formulate their own opinion on the infamous criminal couple, who swindled many unsuspecting people over the years.

The first episode centred on how GroundUp journalists Marecia Damons and Daniel Steyn worked tirelessly to not only break the story but expose the corruption behind Bester’s jailbreak from Mangaung Correctional Centre, which is a private maximum security prison.

GroundUp’s award-winning journalist Marecia Damons. Picture: Supplied

Damons was first put on the case by editor Nathan Geffen, who received a tip-off about Bester still being alive, despite media reports that he burned in a fire in Cell 35 at the prison.

The story changed the lives of Damons and Steyn, who won the Nat Nakasa Award as well as shared the title of Vodacom Journalist of the Year. They also went on to pen a best-seller, “The Thabo Bester Story: The Facebook Rapist, the Celebrity Doctor and the Escape from Cell 35”.

During the investigation, several red flags indicated that something was amiss. One of the clues was that the height of the body differed from that of Bester’s. Another was video footage of two individuals dashing across the yard, under the cover of darkness.

They also uncovered privileges that were extended to Bester while he was serving his life sentence, which included access to a laptop as well as cellphones.

GroundUp’s award-winning journalist Daniel Steyn. Picture: Supplied

And he didn’t have an identity number, either. He was born on June 13, 1986, and was the result of a rape. His childhood wasn’t ideal as he grew up in a socially challenging climate of poverty and crime.

The episode also featured Nkosinathi Sekeleni, Magudumana’s older brother, who unpacked his interactions with Bester and how he came to learn of his true identity.

The big break for Damons and Steyn came when they were sent a photo of Bester and Magudumana shopping at Woolies in Sandton City.

When verifying the image, they were able to confirm that it was taken in 2022, which was all the confirmation they needed to prove that he had faked his death.

But the wheels of justice turned slowly in bringing Bester to book.

The second episode spoke to the heart of the #AmINext gender-based violence movement in SA.

It revisited Bester’s Facebook rapes, where he posed as an influential production person working for well-known organisations like MultiChoice.

He pretended to be talent-scouting for models to cast as presenters. During this ruse, he would rape and rob the hopefuls who responded.

Nkosinathi Sekeleni, Magudumana’s older brother.

Aside from commentary from a journalist specialising in reporting on GBV cases, the director was able to get someone who, thanks to her gut instincts, was spared the fate of Bester’s other victims, including his girlfriend Nomfundo Tyhulu.

The doccie also delved into Magudumana’s past marriage and career. Her brother provided a lot of context, including being wary of Bester’s influence. He intimated that there was a controlling side that he noted, especially on calls with her.

While she willingly did his bidding, there’s a sense of manipulation and fear that comes through in the evidence presented.

The documentary includes interviews with prisoners and prison warders from Mangaung Correctional Centre; the family of Katlego Bereng Mpholo, whose body was found in Cell 35, and former South African Police Service head profiler Dr Gérard Labuschagne.

It also includes social media commentary, with the people of Mzansi sharing their conspiracy theories as well as opinions.

Meanwhile, the trial of Bester, Magudumana and their co-accused resumes in the Free State High Court on June 5.

This true-life story has everything from corruption and love, to deception, scams and a manhunt of note. Don’t be surprised if a movie follows at some point.

∎ “Tracking Thabo Bester” is streaming on Showmax.