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South Africa: an escape, a charred body and a mortuary looter

South Africa: an escape, a charred body and a mortuary looter
Nandipha Magudumana in the dock at the Bloemfontein Magistrates' Court, ...   -  
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South Africa

A glamorous influencer, she is at the heart of a news item that captivates South Africans: the companion of a murderer and serial rapist for a long time on the run, Nandipha Magudumana, a doctor, would have gone so far as to look for a body at the morgue to facilitate his escape.

Ten days ago, the dashing 30-something was arrested in Tanzania along with fugitive Thabo Bester, 36. Nicknamed the "Facebook rapist", the latter, sentenced in 2012 to life in prison for a murder and several rapes, escaped in May 2022, fooling the authorities.

Prison guards, discovering the charred body of a man in Bester's cell, quickly concluded that the inmate had set himself on fire. But last month police revealed the body was not that of the detainee, citing DNA test results.

The case scandalizes the country. President Cyril Ramaphosa says he is "troubled" by the series of failures that enabled the incredible escape. A parliamentary committee heard from the Minister of Justice, prison officials and senior police officers.

A sloppy investigation, neglected leads, police inertia, the macabre and incredible saga looks like a summary of the ills of the country with record crime.

With her head buried in a hood and her face hidden behind a mask, Nandipha Magudumana , specializing in skin treatments and aesthetic care, appeared in court in Bloemfontein (centre) on Monday.

Ankle-bound in chains and covered from head to toe in a pastel tracksuit, only her long manicured fingernails were visible during the hearing. The young woman, who turns 35 this year, is being prosecuted for murder, complicity in escape and violation of the remains.

She is suspected of having helped her companion to escape by providing the body left charred in the cell to make believe in his death. The details of the modus operandi, stratagem and sequence of the escape, remain opaque.

How was the body introduced into the prison and what complicity, complacency or incompetence did it benefit from in order to flee? Among the four arrested in this case are notably the father of Dr. Magudumana as well as a person in charge of the prison surveillance cameras.

Doubts about the doctor's role emerge when authorities realize she has claimed several bodies from a local morgue.

Before becoming the famous girlfriend of a fugitive, Nandipha Magudumana enjoyed success with celebrities who used her for aesthetic skin care. His firm based in Sandton, a wealthy business district of Johannesburg, had notably been elected "official aesthetic sponsor" of Miss South Africa in 2019.

The mother-of-two flaunted her lavish lifestyle on social media, posting photos of her opulent residence and luxury cars. She also showed off to some 21,000 people who followed her on Instagram her children's birthday parties attended by local celebrities.

The doctor, alleged accomplice of the rapist Bester, was a feminist, regularly participating in conferences on "the power" of women.

Nandipha Magudumana is due to appear in court again on May 3. She was remanded in custody. Thabo Bester, whose past, origins and even his existence in the civil registry have many gray areas, must also be heard by the courts next month.

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