Thabo Bester escape: trial to start in February 2024

Charges against three of the 12 accused have been withdrawn

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The charges against Tieho Makhotsa (left) and Nastassja Jansen (centre) were withdrawn in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday. Zanda Moyo (in the blue top) will remain in custody along with Thabo Bester and Nandipha Magudumana until the pretrial hearing set for February next year. Photo: Becker Semela

The trial of Thabo Bester and co-accused is set to start in the Free State High Court in February. This was decided during an appearance at the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.

Bester, a convicted murderer and rapist, escaped from prison in May 2022. His co-accused Nandipha Magudumana, who is referred to by police as Bester’s fellow “mastermind” in the escape, did not appear in court.

Ahead of the hearing on Wednesday morning, Magudumana’s lawyer, Machini Motlaung, told reporters that she had collapsed in the holding cells at the police station before being brought to court and was taken by ambulance for medical attention.

During the hearing, state prosecutor Advocate Amanda Bester (no relation to the accused) withdrew charges against prison warders Nastassja Jansen, Thabang Mier and Moeketsi Ramolula. Of the 12 accused, they faced lesser charges related to aiding the escape.

Thabo Bester’s new lawyer, Jan Loubser, introduced himself to the court. Kabelo Matee, who had previously represented Bester, told the court that he had not been excused as Bester’s attorney of record and that his mandate had not been terminated.

Magistrate Estelle de Lange asked Bester to clear it up. Bester stood up and told the court that he would like both attorneys to be part of his legal team. De Lange told Matthee and Loubser to resolve the matter among themselves.

Mathee, on behalf of Bester, later placed on record that some of his telephonic conversations with Bester were being recorded by the Department of Correctional Services which prohibited him from “openly” talking to his client.

De Lange transferred the matter to the Free State High Court in Bloemfontein. The trial is expected to start on 21 February 2024. Thabo Bester, Nandipha Magudumana and Zanda Moyo remain in custody and the rest are still on bail.

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