The businessperson who ran Thabo Bester’s multimillion-rand media company, which claimed they would bring international stars Halle Berry and Taraji P Henson to South Africa five years ago, has distanced herself from the convicted rapist and murderer.
Speaking out for the first time since a media report by GroundUp associated her with Bester, Phumudzo Thenga says she was also a victim of Bester’s scams, as he persuaded her to open the media business 21st Century Media for Bester while he was in still prison, although she did not know that at the time.
In a statement released on Saturday, Thenga distanced herself from Bester, saying:
Thenga stated that Bester introduced himself to her as Tom Motsepe, the nephew of billionaire businessperson Patrice Motsepe, through Instagram in 2017. She says Bester showed an interest in the community work she was doing and claimed to be based in the UK and the US.
She said he made various proposals, including that she register 21st Century Media in her name as a sole director. She said Bester claimed he was affiliated to and was a shareholder of several high-profile international companies.
The statement read:
Thenga said Bester also proposed that they do community work by rolling out a programme to distribute antiretroviral drugs to disadvantaged communities through his girlfriend, celebrity aesthetics doctor Nandipha Magudumana, who is better known as Dr Nandi, and her practice, Optimum Medical Aesthetics.
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Bester, who was dubbed the Facebook rapist because he found most of his victims on the social media platform, was in 2012 sentenced to life behind bars plus 75 years, to run concurrently.
Bester used the popular social media site to convince women to meet with him by saying he was a model scout and was interested in signing them to his agency. He wasconvicted of murdering car salesperson Nomfundo Tyhulu.
Thenga adds that alarm bells started ringing in 2018 when she was approached by lawyers representing internationally acclaimed mass media and entertainment conglomerate 21st Century Fox, leading to a settlement being agreed to through lawyers and all intellectual property that was in the registration process being withdrawn.
She says she was hoodwinked by Bester, adding that she found out about his true identity after some employees told her about him.
She states that she confronted Bester, who tearfully confirmed that he had been in prison all along and conducted all their correspondence from behind bars.
The statement read: ?Thenga deregistered all the related companies and continued with her existing and new business ventures to this day. It must be noted that, as we all think she scammed people, she was actually scammed. She did not receive any monies from anyone – instead, she lost money.”
Bester’s company 21st Century Media made headlines in 2018 for promoting a Women in Media conference, advertising that the event would feature Hollywood A-listers Berry and Henson as the main speakers.
Local media darling Bonang Matheba was tipped to host the event, but dropped out after learning that the two international stars had nothing to do with the event and that their profiles and images were used without their knowledge.
On Saturday, the department of correctional services confirmed that Bester escaped from the Mangaung Correctional Centre in May last year and is currently on the run.