NELSPRUIT, South Africa
Philemon Lukhele (47), a communications manager for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party Chief Whip's office in the Mpumalanga legislature, Sipho Lawrence Mkhatshwa (39), and Albert Gama (52) jointly appeared in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court yesterday, Monday 9 May 2022 for their initial remand.
The trio is being accused of multiple cases including the murder Hillary Gardee (28), the daughter of former Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Secretary-General and attorney, Godrich Gardee. The accused persons abandoned their bail applications and the court remanded them in custody to the 9th of June 2022.
The state alleged that Gardee was out shopping with her three-year-old daughter in the Nelspruit CBD on the 29th day of April 2022 when she was allegedly abducted. She was last seen shopping at The Plaza in the company of her adopted three-year daughter around 17:40 on the day in question. Her daughter was later found at 20:30 walking alone in the streets of KaMagugu crying out “Mommy is fighting”.
According to the state, Gardee’s body was found in a bush along a dirt road near the Sabie/Lydenburg Road on the 3rd day of May 2022 in the morning. The body had a bullet wound to the head. Police minister Bheki Cele flew to the area to comfort the family. The Mpumalanga provincial police activated a 72-hour action plan to effect arrests.
It is alleged that Mkhatshwa was the first to be apprehended when the police found him hiding in the Schoemansdal area of Nkomazi three days later. His co-accused were nabbed the following two days respectively in Mbombela.
The state further alleged that the trio is facing six counts of kidnapping, conspiracy to commit murder, murder, rape, possession of an unlicensed firearm and defeating the ends of justice. Investigations are continuing with the police awaiting a post-mortem, ballistic tests and DNA evidence.
The late Hillary Gardee was buried on Saturday in Nelspruit at a sombre funeral attended by multitudes from all walks of life including political parties, churches, government officials, business and individuals.
Many who spoke at the funeral described Hillary as a strong, good and caring person. Police Minister Bheki Cele took the opportunity to explain that Hillary's murder was both criminal and politically motivated. Godrich Gardee explained how his lovely daughter's untimely death had devastated his family and colleagues.
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