Bester ‘wore branded clothes, talked about deals worth millions’. Bester and his cellmates allegedly lived lavishly in the prison because they had a lot of money, according to an officer.
As further information regarding the conditions inside the Mangaung detention institution surfaced, it became clear that things were not as they seemed inside the thick prison walls.
Ruth Hopkins’ award-winning documentary Prison for Profit included harrowing stories of life in South Africa’s first privatized prison.
Bester ‘wore branded clothes, talked about deals worth millions’.
Thabo Bester’s escape has brought the jail back into the public eye, but for the wrong reasons. Despite not doing any work with Bester, a correctional services officer who wished to remain nameless indicated that he knew him well.
“First of all, the body was not hidden in a table, but in a duffel bag on the back of a van on Friday afternoon after hours and it was not searched,” said the officer.
He described Mangaung Correctional Centre as a good prison. “It’s very technological and all gates and rooms work with computers.
It is very clean and we are not overcrowded,” he said. “We struggle with marijuana and cellphones. But it can only be members who bring it in.
Marijuana and drugs cost money and money is power. Power is a dangerous thing in prison.” He claimed that the prison consisted of two-man and four-man cells.
Bester was housed in a four-man prison. The officer said that Bester shared a cell with Sandile Mantsoe, who killed Karabo Mokoena and burned his body, Thabiso Dira, a forex trader, and one of three Bulgarian men who were sentenced to a total of 60 years in prison for their heists in one of South Africa’s largest heroin seizures.
Bester allegedly went to single cells on a Saturday and escaped the following Monday. “Mantsoe must have known about everything,” he claimed.
Lavish prison lives
The officer alleged the four inmates had a lot of money. “We heard them talking about many deals and millions [of rands].”
The cops, he claimed, had smuggled in cellphones, computers, radios, and brand-name clothing and shoes for the convicts.
The policeman thinks Bester was able to purchase extra food items like noodles and cookies because he had a lot of money.
“There are stories that members sometimes brought in takeaway food. But it is not true that his girlfriend slept over at the prison.
It is also not true that he could wear his clothes or that someone could bring him clothes. I read and hear a lot of fake news myself,” he said.
The officer claimed that at first, they thought Bester had died in the cell.
Singabakho Nxumalo, a spokesman for the Department of Correctional Services, refuted suggestions that Mantsoe and Bester shared a cell.
He said that starting on November 15, 2021, Mantsoe and Dira will share cell 8 on the prison’s lowest level.
“Bester was in cell 16 on the upper level of the same street,” he said.
Nxumalo said Mantsoe and Dira were later joined in cell 8 by a Bulgarian citizen, Asen Ivanov, in April 2022.