Fired prison guard boasted about brand-new car before Thabo Bester's audacious escape
Prison official said to have extended prison perks to ‘Facebook Rapist’
One of the three G4S prison guards who was fired for assisting “Facebook Rapist” Thabo Bester in his daring escape from Mangaung Correctional Centre boasted on social media about a brand-new car before and after the audacious jailbreak.
Senohe Matsoara, who was dismissed by the multinational security company in September, was a security supervisor believed to have been in cahoots with Bester and aided him in his elaborate escape on May 3 last year.
Matsoara posted a picture on Facebook in January 2022, of a certificate from the Volkswagen Menlyn dealership congratulating “Mr Senohe Ishmael Matsoara on your beautiful Volkswage T-Roc 2.0”. Also in January 2022, he posted pictures of himself in front of a new car. He again posted pics of a brand-new T-Roc in September, when he was dismissed.
Three independent sources informed TimesLIVE Investigations that Matsoara was not scheduled to be on duty the night of Bester’s escape, yet he reported for the shift.
When TimesLIVE contacted Matsoara for comment, he denied being on duty that night but a logbook entry, seen by journalist Oliver Meth, shows he did report for work. Follow-up calls were met with him telling the reporter in Setswana to f*** off before he ended the call.
Two independent sources, an inmate who was in solitary confinement unit and a warder at the prison who was on duty at the time of Bester's escape, said Senohe was fired in September.
A prison warder, who was on duty when Bester escaped, said there were many questions hanging over Matsoara’s alleged relationship with Bester.
“This guy was not meant to have been on duty that night. Bester had applied to be transferred to the safety section of the prison — which consists of single cells — but his application was declined because he did not seem to be mentally stable and this sparked a fear that he could kill himself. However, a few weeks before the escape happened, Matsoara moved him to the safety section,” said the warder.
“Thabo and him were strangely close and one could see that they did favours for each other, and we thought this was just one of those favours.”
Matsoara’s colleagues said it was strange that a G4S employee at the prison, earning a monthly salary of between R15,000 and R18,000, could afford a car of more than R500,000 without a second income.
Another warder claimed Matsoara and the two other dismissed officials have been at the centre of running a jail-stay-for-pay scheme that afforded Bester a comfortable life in prison and insulated him from the unpleasant typical jail conditions.
“You must remember that this guy escaped in May. Senohe was suspended in September and [he] immediately bought a brand-new VW T-Roc, as if he was sticking his middle finger [at] the situation,” said the warder.
“How can he even afford to buy such on [a salary of] R15k? He was just dismissed and his paperwork was not ready for him to see his monies [from work benefits],” said the warder.
Two other wardens were dismissed for their roles in the escape. One was also a security supervisor, while another was responsible for the CCTV camera system in the section which Bester escaped from.
A senior prison official, who works as a warder, told TimesLIVE how he had given numerous testimonies to prison management and authorities about corruption and collusion at the prison.
Inmates also told TimesLIVE how Bester allegedly “bankrolled” prison officials’ lifestyles and how the dismissed trio were close to Bester and would often perform various favours for him.
“He would buy the officials lunch, send them e-wallets, expensive gifts and loan them money,” said an inmate who was kept in the same section as Bester.
On Matsoara’s Facebook page, a month after his suspension, he posted a picture of his new car, retailing between R563,800 and R660,400, and even “listed” himself as the richest man in SA, alongside Johan Rupert and Patrice Motsepe.
Department of correctional services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said a report on the ongoing investigation “will assist everyone in terms of details”, yet he wouldn't say when this report can be expected.
A source with inside information said one of the issues raised in the ongoing investigation by DCS, is that protocol was not followed when the fire broke out in Bester’s cell. He said security was not on site and as a result, Matsoara was dismissed.
Judicial inspectorate for correctional services spokesperson Emerantia Cupido said they were “deeply troubled by the evidence reported so far, and we are working diligently to ensure that we fulfil our mandate as the inspectorate”.
Cupido added that once the investigation is completed, JICS will provide a report to the police national commissioner, the minister of justice and correctional services and the justice portfolio committee as part of its mandatory reporting function.
G4S Correction Services earlier this week confirmed it had dismissed three of its employees as a result of their conduct on the day that a fire broke out in Bester’s cell. G4S is the contractor of the privately-run Mangaung maximum-security prison where Bester was serving his sentence.
“Three employees at MCC were suspended shortly after the incident. These employees were subsequently dismissed in September 2022, December 2022 and January 2023 respectively, for matters relating to their conduct on the evening of May 3 2022,” G4S said in a statement.
Bester, a convicted rapist and murderer, who lured his victims through Facebook, escaped in May after faking his death during a fire in his prison cell at Mangaung Correctional Centre in Bloemfontein.
PODCAST | Thabo Bester is a 21st century headache for correctional services
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