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Justice for Hillary Gardee: 8 other young women murdered in mysterious circumstances in SA


South Africa has one of the highest gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) rates in the world; it has also been widely reported it is one of the most violent countries.

Hillary Gardee’s mysterious murder and disappearance is not the first time a young South African woman has gone missing, only to be found dead in a matter of days. Pictured here, Tshegofatso Pule, Natasha Conabeer and Karabo Mokoena, all suffered similar fate. Picture: IOL

THE MURDER of Hillary Gardee, 28, has once again shown the spotlight on South Africa’s criminally high femicide rates.

Although the circumstances regarding her death remain unclear as her killer, or killers, remain at large, police have confirmed the daughter of the former EFF secretary general turned lawyer, Godrich Gardee, was murdered, after her body was found with visible head wounds in a bush, 45kms away from Mbombela (Nelspruit).

South Africa has one of the highest gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) rates in the world. It has also been widely reported it is one of the most violent countries in the world.

When presenting the 2021/2022 second quarter crime statistics released by the SAPS, Police Minister Bheki Cele said to combat gender-based-violence, the police were in the process of establishing GBV desks in all police stations in the country to solemnly focus on GBV cases.

The statistics revealed that 897 women were killed during this period, up from the previous year’s 833 cases, a 7.7% increase, and that there was a 31.7% increase in the number of children murdered compared to the same period in the year before.

Following Hillary’s murder, IOL looks at at least seven other young women who were killed in recent years in gruesome, and at the time of their disappearances, mysterious deaths either by their partners or complete strangers.

Hillary Gardee, 28, Mbombela

On Tuesday, South Africans woke up to the shocking news of the death of Hillary Gardee who was found in the bush murdered, with visible wounds to her head.

Just three days earlier on Friday, Hillary was last seen at her local Nelspruit Plaza Super Spar just after 5pm. She was with a three-year-old girl, who she was reportedly in the process of formally adopting.

Her body was found on Tuesday morning in the bush, 45km outside of Nelspruit.

There are still no details surrounding her demise, however, police have confirmed they are investigating a case of murder.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said they have activated a 72-hour activation plan to find the killer or killers. He said the motive behind Hillary’s death would become clearer, once police have arrested the suspect or suspects.

Hillary Gardee, the daughter of top lawyer and former secretary-general of the EFF, Godrich Gardee, was found dead in a bush 45kms outside of Mbombela on Tuesday after she went missing on Friday.

Uyinene Mrwetyana, 19, Cape Town

Uyinene Mrwetyana’s murder in August 2019 sent shock waves through the country after she was last seen at a Post Office in Cape Town, where she had gone to fetch a parcel.

The former University of Cape Town student was found murdered in Lingelethu West in Khayelitsha on August 24, 2019 after she had been missing for several days.

Mrwetyana was raped twice, her body hid inside the safe of the post office, and then later dumped and doused with an accelerant before being set alight.

Her killer, Luyanda Botha, was an employee at the Clareinch Post Office in Claremont.

Mrwetyana purchased clothes online and the parcel was due for collection at Clareinch Post Office. She had made enquiries on August 8 and was assisted by Botha who told Mrwetyana that the parcel was not ready for collection and that he would contact her when the parcel arrived.

Uyinene Mrwetyana was raped then bludgeoned to death after she was lured to the Claremont post office by a 42-year-old man who worked at the Post Office in August 2019. Picture: Supplied

The parcel arrived on August 16, 2019 and on Saturday, August 24, she arrived at the Post Office after it was closed for business. Botha raped Mrwetyana and then took a blunt object and hit her on the head to stop her from screaming.

After raping and murdering her, Botha went to a nearby bar where he had drinks and returned to the Post Office the next day to dispose of the body.

Luyanda Botha was sentenced to three terms of life imprisonment plus five years.

Karabo Mokoena, 22, Sandton

Karabo Mokoena was murdered by her boyfriend, who was a married father of three. When she was reported missing, initially, her now convicted killer, Sandile Mantsoe, had been part of the people who searched for her in the leafy streets of Sandton, Johannesburg.

Karabo had been last seen alive on CCTV footage which captured the time as 2.48am on Friday, 28 April, 2017.

Before she was found, her images of her missing were circulated on social media until she was found several days later dumped in a field in Johannesburg.

Karabo Mokoena was killed and burnt by her boyfriend Sandile Mantsoe in Sandton. Picture: Supplied

In an attempt to conceal the crime, the murderer, Mantsoe had stabbed and burnt her body and left the remains in the field.

But he denied killing her, claiming he found his former girlfriend dead in his upmarket Sandton apartment after she supposedly committed suicide. Mantsoe has admitted to disposing of Mokoena’s body.

Mantsoe was sentenced to 32 years in jail for murder, defeating the ends of justice and of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. The court found he had tried to conceal her murder by burning her.

Tshegofatso Pule, 28, Roodepoort

Tshegofatso Pule was heavily pregnant when she was stabbed multiple times, shot dead and left hanging on a tree, after her lover, Ntuthuko Shoba, orchestrated her death by hiring Muzikayise Malephane of Soweto, to kill her.

Shoba had befriended Malephane during the lockdown, the court heard. On the day Tshegofatso was killed, Shoba had took the young woman to shop for items for their unborn baby.

When it was time for her to return home in Soweto, Shoba organised for Malephane to pick her up, pretending he was an e-hailing driver. She was murdered that night and never made it home.

Tshegofatso was eight months pregnant during the time of her death. She was found shot and hanging from a tree in Durban Deep, Roodepoort, in 2020. According to police reports at the time, she also had stab wounds to her chest.

Tshegofatso Pule was found hanging on a tree in Durban Deep, Roodepoort, after her lover and father of her unborn baby, Ntuthuko Shoba, hired Muzikayise Malephane to murder her. Picture: Supplied

On March 25, 2022, Ntuthuko Shoba was found guilty of murdering Pule who was his girlfriend and mother of his unborn child. Shoba was also engaged with a separate woman at the time of his affair with Tshegofatso.

Muzikayise Malephane is also serving 20 years for the murder of Pule. He turned State witness and pointed fingers at Shoba as the mastermind behind the hit on his pregnant girlfriend.

Malephane confessed that he killed Pule as part of his deal. He told the court that Shoba had offered him up to R70,000 to kill Pule.

He claimed Shoba had first offered him R7,000 to kill Pule as he did not want his wife to know he had impregnated her.

Shoba will be sentenced later in May.

Natasha Conabeer, 23, Durban

Natasha Conabeer went missing for three weeks before she was apparently dropped off at her family’s home in Inanda in a critical condition on September 8, 2019. She died the next day in hospital.

Conabeer was last seen on Florida Road on August 19, but was last heard of from on August 22, 2019.

A week before she went missing in August, the Durban student sent one of her best friends a message saying that she was being stalked.

The family said the doctors suspected poisoning after she was found with a high level of paracetamol in her body which affected her organs.

Natasha Conabeer was dumped outside her home in Inanda, north of Durban, alive but unconscious and in a critical condition more than a month after she went missing on Florida Road. She died.

The Conabeer family are still left with questions about their daughter’s disappearance which subsequently led to her death.

In October 2020, Rosemary Conabeer, Natasha’s mother, said she was heartbroken about her daughter’s death and had lost hope in the police.

She told The Mercury that they had not received post-mortem results from the police. When they asked about it, they were told that it may take years to come back.

Nosicelo Mtebeni, 23, East London

University of Fort Hare student, Nosicelo Mtebeni, was found murdered in East London on 19 August, 2021.

Mtebeni was doing her final year in law and was due to graduate in April 2022.

She was killed and dismembered by her boyfriend, Alutha Pasile.

He cut her body into seven parts, stored it for three days in the room they were sharing, before putting her torso into a suitcase in a bid to dispose of it.

University of Fort Hare student Nosicelo Mtebeni was found murdered in East London on 19 August, 2021.

Her body parts were found stuffed inside two bags placed on the street in East London’s Quigney suburb.

More parts were found allegedly in possession of Pasile inside a room of a 10-bedroom commune house they shared with other tenants in Fleet Street.

Pasile believed that Mtebeni had been cheating on him after coming across messages saying “I love you” and “I miss you“.

It emerged in court that Pasile had sent the messages to Mtebeni in 2019.

Pasile was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment in December 2021. He was also sentenced to 10 years for defeating the ends of justice.

Tshepang Tsipe, 21, Soweto

Tshepang Tsipe’s body was found in a deep freezer in Soweto in November 2021.

Tsipe had been missing for a while when her body parts were found in the freezer.

Flavio Hlabangwane, 26, was in a relationship with Tsipe, his cousin.

Hlabangwane’s arrest in November 2021 sent shock waves across the country after it was alleged that his girlfriend found human remains in his fridge.

In January, Hlabangwane was admitted to a psychiatric institution after two failed suicide attempts.

The psychiatric evaluation was held to determine if he is fit to stand trial.

Bongeka Phungula, 28, and Popi Qwabe, 24, Soweto

Bongeka Phungula and Popi Qwabe were murdered and believed to have been raped in Soweto on May 12, 2017.

The bodies of the pair were found in Naledi and Tladi section.

Qwabe and Phungula, a mother-of-one, were killed after boarding a taxi to Maponya Mall in Klipspruit.

Friends Bongeka Phungula and Popi Qwabe were found dead in Soweto.

They were friends from KwaZulu-Natal who lived together in Naledi.

Two taxi operators were arrested in connection with their killings, but the double-murder case was struck off the roll due to pending DNA results.

The accused, Alec Magaula Mamothame and Sandile Nkosi denied any involvement in their murders and told the court that they had been hijacked.

However, they were found in possession of some of the women’s belongings, including a cellphone and lipstick, which they said they had found in the taxi. Bloodstains were also found in the taxi.

Five years later, no breakthrough has been made in solving the murder of the two women.


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