Must-watch trailer: Tracking Thabo Bester

4 March 2024

Must-watch trailer: Tracking Thabo Bester

Showmax has just dropped the trailer for Tracking Thabo Bester, the true-crime documentary South Africa has been asking for ever since GroundUp first broke the news that the convicted murderer and rapist did not burn to death in Cell 35 after all and was instead shopping at Woolworths in Sandton City.

Thabo Bester was the most searched person in South Africa on Google in 2023, with his co-accused, Dr Nandipha Magudumana, just behind in fourth place, as the whole country obsessed over Bestermania and the stormy tale of love, murder, deception and corruption. Daily Maverick named them both ‘SA Villain of the Year.’

Watch the trailer for Tracking Thabo Bester

The larger-than-life story of South Africa’s most famous prison break is in safe hands: Tracking Thabo Bester is being produced by local true-crime pioneers IdeaCandy, the production company behind the SAFTA-winning Devilsdorp, the Sanlam Group Financial Journalist of the Year-winning Steinheist, and the Showmax true-crime record breaker Rosemary’s Hitlist.

Their four-part investigation screens in two halves on Showmax on 15 and 22 March 2024.

The first episode follows GroundUp journalists Marecia Damons and Daniel Steyn as they investigate an anonymous tip off that the burnt body at Mangaung Correctional Centre may not have been Bester. Damons and Steyn went on to win the prestigious Nat Nakasa Award and share the Vodacom Journalist of the Year award for breaking the jaw-dropping story and its biggest plot twists. They also co-wrote the bestselling book The Thabo Bester Story: The Facebook Rapist, the Celebrity Doctor and the Escape from Cell 35.

Tracking Thabo Bester on Showmax
Editor William Shoki in Tracking Thabo Bester

Subsequent episodes look at why Bester was called the Facebook rapist and in jail originally; how a celebrity doctor fell for a convicted criminal and left her children behind to go on the run with him to Tanzania; and who really died in Cell 35.

Interviews include prisoners and prison warders at Mangaung Correctional Centre; the family of Katlego Bereng Mpholo, whose body was found in Cell 35; Nkosinathi Sekeleni, Nandipha’s older brother; and former South African Police Service head profiler Dr Gérard Labuschagne, who interviewed Bester after his 2012 arrest for rape and murder. The documentary also shows the media and social media reactions to the story.

Tracking Thabo Bester on Showmax
Nkosinathi Sekeleni, Nandipha’s older brother, in Tracking Thabo Bester

Having earned three SAFTA nominations in the past two years for her work editing Steinheist, Devilsdorp and Murder in Paris, Nikki Comninos made her Showmax Original debut as a director on December’s Convict Conman, which looked at Dawie de Villiers – another South African running a media business from inside jail, where he was also serving time for rape. She’s again at the helm of Tracking Thabo Bester.

“We tend to discuss Thabo Bester like it’s an isolated case but it’s clearly not,” says Comninos. “Bester has been depicted as some kind of anomaly for being able to run a business while incarcerated, but so did Dawie de Villiers – also a convicted rapist who lured his victims online – at a completely different prison. This raises questions about what is happening with the South African prison system.”

The trial of Bester, Magudumana and their co-accused was supposed to begin in the Free State High Court at the end of February but has been postponed to 5 June 2024.