New twist in Hillary Gardee’s kidnapping and murder case.
After spending seven months in jail, the man who was charged with planning the kidnapping and murder of Hillary Gardee was freed last Thursday on an R20,000 bail.
He now demands that the state drop all accusations against him and express their regret for their error. Philemon Lukhele, who has not seen or spoken to Floyd Shivambu in many years, claims he was tortured and compelled by police to accuse Shivambu of ordering a hit on Gardee in an exclusive interview with Sunday Independent published on Friday.
“I was tortured and asked to admit that I worked with Floyd to kill Hillary, someone wanted to settle a political score with Shivambu using me in this case. When police realised that there was no connection between Floyd and myself as we haven’t interacted for so many years, they then begged me to ask accused number one, Sipho Mkhatshwa, to implicate Shivambu and I refused to be part of their sick game”, Lukhele said.
He claimed that police wanted him to say that he met Shivambu on April 5, 2017, while Shivambu was in Mbombela for a demonstration at a farm owned by entrepreneur Johann Rupert in Mpumalanga.
“I haven’t seen or spoken to Floyd in more than four years yet I was tortured to implicate him in a murder I wasn’t even involved in.”
Lukhele said that from the start, the police “exaggerated charges” against him and his co-defendants, Mkhatshwa and Albert Gama.
“When they realised that they had arrested the wrong people, they started creating, manufacturing, and planting evidence against us but still that didn’t work. No amount of lies will turn into the truth. I said on the day I was arrested that the truth shall set me free and that history will absolve me. I have nothing to do with Hillary’s murder or kidnapping. I never even met her in my life.”
New twist in Hillary Gardee’s kidnapping and murder case
After being officially provided the case docket with a confession of the individual who admitted that he killed Gardee and that he did so alone last Friday, Lukhele was released on bond.
The Sunday Independent claimed in August of last year that Hlabirwa Rassie Nkuna confessed to killing Gardee after he was apprehended by police for killing Nonkululeko Nkosi, 27, in Ekurhuleni and dumping her on a farm dam before taking her Mercedes-Benz.
After shooting and killing his lover Pretty Nkambule and her sister Marcia, a police officer, two weeks after Gardee was killed, Nkuna, who was on parole, had a warrant out for his arrest. According to the magazine, Nkuna even led police to an ATM in Sabie where he stole money out of Gardee’s account.
Nkuna has been added to the list of suspects in this case as accusation number four, but the authorities had already refused to free Lukhele, Gama, and Mkhatshwa, asserting that the four men were somehow connected. Godrich Gardee, Hillary’s father and a former EFF secretary general, is suing the government for R18 million, claiming that it “wrongfully” released Nkuna from prison on parole before the man abducted and killed his daughter.
While visiting Nelspruit with her 3-year-old adopted daughter, Hillary was abducted. Outside of Nelspruit, approaching Sabie, in a plantation, her body was discovered abandoned. Nkuna asserts that he killed Gardee close to Sabie in his confession, which was made public by the Sunday Independent this week and is included in the police docket. He also emphasizes that he acted alone.
In his confession, he says that he invited Gardee out after meeting her on Facebook. Additionally, he admitted to stealing Gardee’s laptop and cellphone and selling them to a Nigerian resident of Nelspruit.
Singabakho Nxumalo, a spokesman for Correctional Services, confirmed to the Sunday Independent that Nkuna received a four-year term for having an illegal handgun and ammunition in September 2015 and was released on parole on July 6.
Nkuna evaded the community service program until he was apprehended once more for rape in September 2020. On January 27, 2022, he was given parole once more. Within four months, he allegedly murdered Gardee and the Mazibuko sisters.
In the final indictment, Lukhele claimed that the first charges of rape and kidnapping against him, Gama, and Mkhantswa had been dropped.
“My guest house was initially mentioned as the scene of the crime but that is no longer the case in the indictment. Even the case of kidnapping was withdrawn against the three of us. All I want is for the state to withdraw all the charges against Sipho, Albert, and myself and apologize for the error but they must know that no amount of public apology will wash our names after they dragged our good names through the mud for so long”, he said.
The provincial spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Monica Nyuswa, said that Lukhele was freed on R20,000 bond last Friday and that he had been given instructions not to impede the testimony of any witnesses and to show up at the police station each Friday.
When asked about the withdrawal of most of the charges against Lukhele, Gama, and Mkhatshwa, Nyuswa said: “The state has the discretion to remove and add charges before the accused pleads guilty based on evidence.”
She affirmed that Nkuna had been accused of killing Gardee last year, but the NPA did not say why all of the accusations against Gama, Mkhatshwa, and Lukhele had not been dropped or whether there was any connection between the three men and Nkuna.
“The NPA cannot comment on that as it is the subject of court proceedings during the trial,” she said.
Given that Nkuna’s confession was included in the indictment, Gama and Mkhatshwa are still being held without being released, and they are anticipated to submit new bail requests. In April is when the Gardee murder is anticipated to begin.