Sunday, May 28, 2023

Convicted rapist, murderer Thabo Bester ran glamorous media company from prison | News24

  • Convicted rapist and assassin Thabo Bester ran a glamorous media firm from jail.
  • twenty first Century Media was made to appear like a subsidiary of twenty first Century Fox and was chargeable for the Women in Mediaconvention, which turned out to be a rip-off.
  • Bester created a brand new persona, Tom Motsepe, posing as the corporates chairperson primarily based in New York.

Convicted rapist and assassin Thabo Bester was working a multimillion-rand rip-off whereas serving a life sentence for rape and homicide at Mangaung Correctional Centre.

Bester posed because the chairperson of twenty first Century Media, a rip-off occasion and manufacturing firm, which was made to appear like a subsidiary of twenty first Century Fox.

twenty first Century Media turned the topic of a social media storm in 2018 for selling a “Women in Media” convention with Hollywood A-listers as visitor audio system, which turned out to be a rip-off.

GroundUp has photos and video footage of the glitzy launch of twenty first Century Media in 2018, held on the Hilton Hotel in Sandton.

The occasion was attended by members of Johannesburg’s excessive society, together with celebrities Amanda Du Pont and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

Thabo Bester appears at a glamorous Johannesburg e

Thabo Bester seems at a glamorous Johannesburg occasion on 13 June 2018 through video convention, whereas he was in jail. Photo: Supplied to GroundUp


Attendees had been informed the chairperson of the corporate, “Tom Motsepe”, would video name in from New York. But unbeknown to the viewers, the person showing on the large display was convicted rapist and assassin Thabo Bester, talking from jail.

Bester seems in entrance of a white wall carrying a swimsuit and designer watch. A highlights video, made after the occasion, incorporates a clip of the viewers singing glad birthday to “Tom”. The date of the convention was 13 June 2018. Bester was born on 13 June.

At the time of the occasion, Bester was serving a life sentence at Mangaung Correctional Centre, a personal maximum-security jail operated by multinational firm G4S.

GroundUp printed compelling evidence final week that Bester faked his dying in a cell hearth and escaped from jail in May 2022. There are additionally indications he has been working a brand new enterprise with superstar physician Nandipha Magudumana.

Tom Motsepe

Bester has used aliases all through his prison profession. While working twenty first Century Media, he was often known as “Tom Motsepe” and claimed to be associated to businessman Patrice Motsepe.

GroundUp spoke to a number of former workers of twenty first Century Media. They mentioned “Tom” was hands-on within the firm’s operations and would ship cash at any time when it was wanted. Everyone was appearing below direct directions from “Tom”.

According to former workers, he was capable of persuade individuals to stop their jobs at established media homes to hitch the corporate. He had researched the {industry} properly and senior members of the media knew about him, one former worker informed GroundUp.

READ | Thabo Bester saga: Nandipha Magudumana abandons her rented mansion

Recruits of twenty first Century Media had been led to imagine they might be working with an industry-leading firm. “Tom” launched himself to them as an government of twenty first Century Fox and Sky Digital.

A Twitter account for “Tom Motsepe” incorporates pictures of Bester’s face edited onto different individuals’s our bodies. In one image, his face is edited onto American actor Michael B. Jordan’s physique.

A photo of “Tom Motsepe”, posted to Twitter, in wh

A photograph of “Tom Motsepe”, posted to Twitter, by which “Tom’s” head is edited onto the physique of Michael B. Jordan. Original photograph inlaid, prime left. Photo: Copied for honest use


An archived copy of reveals Bester carrying the identical outfit he wore on the evening of the corporate launch. The web site incorporates a number of weblog posts on enterprise administration.

Bester had invented an intensive backstory for “Tom”.

A Board of Directors doc for one more of his firms, twenty first Century Group, features a profile that describes “Tom” as a “South African investment strategist magnate”, a “progressive and innovative businessman”, and a “thought leader” with “sound knowledge of how to operate a successful global brand”.

A 21st Century Group board of directors document

A twenty first Century Group board of administrators doc reveals Thabo Bester as “Tom Motsepe”. Photo: Copied for honest use


“Tom”, the profile claims, holds a bachelor’s diploma in enterprise administration and administration from the University of Cape Town and a bachelor’s diploma in funding and securities from Harvard University.

The profile lists a number of firms began by “Tom”, together with “the world’s largest promotion company” which he began on the age of 21. It additionally says he specialises in mining, funding and media.

According to the profile, “Tom” owned 33.5% of Viacom, 12.9% of 20th Century Fox and “went on to occupy” UBS Financial Services in Switzerland. (This is all ludicrous after all.)

twenty first Century Group and its pretend firms

twenty first Century Media (Pty) Ltd was registered as an organization with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission in 2018.

The sole director was Phumudzo Thenga who was additionally the only real director of 11 different registered firms with names just like well-known worldwide firms. All of them, together with twenty first Century Media, have since been deregistered.

Companies registered by Thenga embrace “UBS Group” (the identical identify as a large monetary companies agency), “United Talent Agency” (the identical identify as one of many largest worldwide casting companies) and “Black Phoenix Digital” (the identical identify as a UK-based PR firm).

Thenga was additionally the only real director of “TM Financials”, which one former worker informed us stood for “Tom Motsepe Financials” and shared places of work with twenty first Century Media.

Phumudzo Thenga (centre, black dress), pictured wi

Phumudzo Thenga (centre, black costume), pictured with others who attended the launch occasion. Photo: Supplied to GroundUp


Another was “Sky Digital”, the brand of which was displayed on a banner on the twenty first Century Media launch occasion and bore a hanging resemblance to the brand of the UK-based tv community Sky News.

The logos for twenty first Century Media and twenty first Century Group displayed on the banner had been additionally just like these of their actual counterpart.

Promotion social media posts for the “Women in Media” convention embrace a brand for “UBS Group”, which is nearly an identical to the brand of the Swiss funding big UBS.

Attendees in front of banners at the event. On the

Attendees in entrance of banners on the occasion. On the far left of the picture, the true brand for the corporate Sky is featured. Photo: Supplied to GroundUp

A close up of some of the logos and their counterp

An in depth up of a number of the logos and their counterparts.


According to former workers, Thenga was the CEO of the corporate however was hardly ever on the workplace.

A full-time “managing director” ran every day operations and “Tom” would give direct directions to workers.

“Tom” was supposedly primarily based in New York, so there was at all times a time zone distinction. It is feasible it was simpler for Bester to have personal entry to a telephone, laptop computer, and web at evening.

The firm had luxurious places of work in Sandton and greater than 30 workers. They had been apparently given brand-new laptops.

One former worker mentioned there didn’t appear to be any actual technique or marketing strategy; cash would at all times be obtainable.

Several tv productions had been supposedly being labored on, however they had been by no means filmed.

The firm even held auditions for the reveals, which had been attended by a number of well-known South African actors, the previous workers mentioned.

The Women in MediaScam

twenty first Century Media made headlines in 2018 after promoting a “Women in Media” convention which turned out to be a rip-off. Tickets had been bought for R1 250 every and Hollywood A-listers Halle Berry and Taraji P. Henson had been marketed as visitor audio system.

But when Berry and Henson publicly distanced themselves from the occasion, a media outcry adopted, and the occasion was cancelled.

Posters for the fake Women in Media event featured

Posters for the pretend Women in Media occasion featured Halle Berry and Taraji P. Henson. Images equipped


The “Women in Media” saga was the start of the top for twenty first Century Media, former workers informed us.

They had misplaced all credibility as an organization and had been even confronted with authorized motion by the true twenty first Century Fox.

South African media character Bonang Matheba was set to host the “Women in Media” occasion however backed out after it emerged Berry and Henson wouldn’t be taking part.

According to the occasion’s promotional posters, M-Net channel 1Magic was the official media accomplice for the occasion. M-Net didn’t reply to GroundUp’s questions. At the time of the occasion, M-Net declined to reply questions from the media.

The promotional posters additionally contained hyperlinks to addresses in London and New York. The New York handle seems to be that of twenty first Century Fox.

After it emerged Henson was unaware of the occasion, twenty first Century Media issued a statement denying it had falsely marketed the occasion.

The firm mentioned the convention was supposed to “build leadership and women empowerment in Africa”.

READ | Facebook rapist: Deputy minister was informed by warder that Thabo Bester escaped

It known as it a non-profit initiative funded by twenty first Century Group “as a means of giving back to women in Africa”.

In a subsequent assertion, the corporate expressed disappointment with Berry and Henson for “withdrawing” from the occasion and mentioned authorized motion was being taken in opposition to the companies by whom that they had booked the visitor audio system.

The firm mentioned the occasion would go forward however can be by invitation solely.

Former workers informed GroundUp they had been below the impression the occasion was actual.

They had been informed contracts had been being signed with the visitor audio system and deposits had been paid for native celebrities and venue rent.

GroundUp understands the occasion by no means passed off.

Former workers mentioned quickly after the media storm, rumours began circulating within the workplace twenty first Century Media was going to close down.

But even after this debacle, the corporate apparently signed a lease for a further flooring of workplace house in Sandton, which stood empty for about six months.

The former workers mentioned though they obtained paid their month-to-month salaries, they later discovered tax and unemployment insurance coverage had been deducted from their salaries however by no means transferred to SARS and the Department of Labour.

The former workers who spoke to GroundUp mentioned all of them had moments the place they turned suspicious about who “Tom” actually was, however by no means actually gave it a lot thought.

It was solely years after, upon seeing our reviews on Bester’s escape, that they joined the dots.

“They ruined so many lives,” mentioned one worker, who stop her job to hitch the corporate.

Almost 4 years after the “Women in Media” debacle, she has been unable to seek out one other job.

Who is Phumudzo Thenga?

Phumudzo Thenga, the only real director of twenty first Century Media, describes herself as a “serial entrepreneur” on her LinkedIn web page.

After twenty first Century Media shut its doorways, Thenga began a brand new group of firms known as Lwendo.

At first, Lwendo provided media companies, however it now focuses on minerals and assets.

According to its web site, the corporate offered a wide range of companies, together with supplying and transporting gasoline and coal. It additionally supplies workplace stationery and IT companies. The web site claims the corporate’s shoppers embrace Eskom, Exxaro, and the Emfuleni Municipality.

Thenga’s firms have a monitor document of bidding on tenders. We have discovered quite a few situations of unsuccessful tenders they’ve utilized for, from workplace stationery to diesel.

READ | Is the Facebook rapist still alive?

Lwendo Minerals was lately informed by the police to evacuate a residential property in Johannesburg. The firm was illegally parking gasoline tankers on the property.

Thenga is married to a senior official within the Ekurhuleni Municipality. He is a director of one among her firms, Lovebirds Transport, and was a director of Lwendo Foods.

We requested Thenga for remark through e mail.

She first responded she believed she had been scammed and organized to fulfill us through video name. But shortly earlier than our scheduled assembly, she emailed us to say that on authorized recommendation, she wouldn’t attend the assembly.

We gave her one other alternative to answer questions however obtained no response.

How may a convicted rapist and assassin run a enterprise from jail?

According to the Correctional Services Act, sentenced offenders will not be allowed to work or conduct enterprise “on their own account”.

But illicit companies run from jail will not be unusual in South Africa. The illicit commerce of cellphones and medicines, typically aided by jail officers, is a known problem.

Nonetheless, it’s troubling an inmate serving a life sentence from a maximum-security jail and the second-largest personal jail on the earth was capable of run such an elaborate enterprise from behind bars.

It is astounding a convicted violent intercourse offender ought to have free entry to the web. It is bizarre he had entry to a swimsuit.

Inmates at Mangaung Correctional Centre who spoke to GroundUp (on unlawfully traded cellphones) mentioned it will have been comparatively simple for Bester to acquire a cellphone.

Laptops had been allowed within the jail for inmates who had been learning.

GroundUp has beforehand reported, based on Magudumana, Bester was learning by Damelin.

But for Bester to run this sort of enterprise – and to flee from jail later – he would have needed to have the help of officers working on the jail.

We spoke on the telephone to Stephan Page and Gert Byleveldt, the top of HR and audit, respectively, at Mangaung Correctional Centre. Both declined to remark.

Byleveldt mentioned a lawyer was being consulted on reply our questions on the matter.

At the time of publication, G4S’s communications staff had not responded to our enquiries.

In response to our questions, Department of Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo informed GroundUp the investigation was ongoing and “we are therefore unable to extract particular elements at this stage”.

“Once again, we are appealing that we are allowed to conclude the investigation and provide a conclusive report,” he mentioned.

The police’s Brigadier Motantsi Makhele once more informed us their investigation had reached “a very critical stage” and it “won’t be in the interest of justice to give any comment now, as advised by the investigating team”.

Magudumana’s lawyer seems to have stopped responding to our requests for remark.

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