One of the three men arrested in connection with the murder of Hillary Gardee is a senior manager in the office of the General Manager of the ANC in the Mpumalanga Legislature.
Philemon Lukhele, commonly known as Mhlabunzima, who owns a guest house in Mbombela, is a senior manager responsible for communications and research in Chief Whip Fidel Mlombo’s office.
Lukhele , 47, appeared alongside Albert Mduduzi Gama, 52, and Sipho Lawrence Mkhatshwa, 39, in Nelspruit Magistrates’ Court on Monday on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, rape, murder, kidnapping and defeat of justice
Mlombo told TimesLIVE it was disappointing that one of the senior managers in his office was arrested for such a crime.
“I was disappointed that someone in my office , who holds a senior position, is among the suspects,” Mlombo said committed gender-based violence and considers it a very serious crime.
“Internal disciplinary proceedings will continue once he is released on bail… We condemn every act of violence against women and children and people with disabilities,” Mlombo said.
However, Lukhele and his co-defendants chose not to seek bail upon their first appearance.
Instead, Lukhele, through his lawyer, offered his condolences to the Gardee family.
Mlombo praised the Mpumalanga Police, who worked 24/7 for them to ensure that suspects be arrested immediately.
“We are pleased with the speed with which the police took action on this case and we would like to thank them for arresting suspects quickly within 72 hours.”
He said Lukhele has been “probably more than 1 5 years” in the office and work primarily as a senior researcher.
“I joined the Chief Whip’s office in 2019 and he was there long before me, probably more than 15 years” , said Mlombo.
Numerous EFF members appeared in court to see and support the alleged killers Gardee family. They said they were dissatisfied with the way the trial was conducted.
EFF National Chair Veronica Mente said the justice system puts the perpetrators ahead of the victims.
Today we went to court and nothing was said about Hillary in court. All we’ve heard is the medical care the perpetrators need. The judiciary focuses on the perpetrators. Why doesn’t it start with the victim? Our constitution needs to be changed. Our laws must be repealed,” said Mente.
Judge Tule-Tu Tonjeni had previously ordered that the three suspects receive medical attention. This was after their legal representatives told the court that the three were in great pain and needed medical attention. Tonjeni claimed the trio were tortured by police.
Mente said she expected to hear in court why and where Gardee was killed.
“The hut, in where it all happened is next to her father and uncle’s house. They were so nasty and now have the gall to go to court and ask for medical care,” she said.
She encouraged members to be brave and not cowardly when they see something shady.
< p>“Be alert. Do you know places that are illegal and doing wrong things. Someone saw something and was silent. Your silence kills people. Let’s not be cowards and stop being afraid,” she said.
Mente called on other prisoners to “not give peace to the three in prison”.
“We calling everyone [in jail] to do your thing with these three. Don’t be shaken. If you touch one of us, we’ll touch you ten times,” she said.
Gardee, 28, was buried over the weekend. The daughter of former EFF General Secretary Godrich Gardee went missing after going shopping with her daughter in Mbombela on April 29. She was found dead four days later.
She had been attacked and shot in the back of the head. Her body was found by woodworkers outside Mbombela.
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