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Possession of phone by Hillary Gardee’s alleged killer shows State is aiding him – EFF

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The EFF says everyone who made calls to and received calls from the contraband cellphone should answer to these “nefarious activities”, which constitute defeating the ends of justice.

Sipho Lawrence Mkatshwa, Philemon Lukhele and Mduzuzi Gama in the dock for the murder of Hillary Gardee. File Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

THE EFF has slammed the government and the justice system after the Department of Correctional Services confirmed that remand detainee Philemon Lukhele – arrested for the murder of Hillary Gardee – was found in possession of a cellphone.

Lukhele and his co-accused, Sipho Lawrence Mkhatshwa, 39, and Albert Gama, 52, were arrested and charged this month for the murder of Hillary, the daughter of the EFF’s former secretary-general Godrich Gardee. The trio is behind bars and due to return to court on June 9.

EFF national spokesperson Sinawo Thambo said the possession of the cellphone by Lukhele in prison shows he is being assisted by influential individuals to subvert justice.

“It is unclear how long he has had this cellphone while in prison, and what nefarious reason he has used it for, which would likely compromise the case against him. The fact that Lukhele had this cellphone is nothing but a clear indication that the State is complicit and is actively aiding and abetting a detained criminal in order for him to subvert justice,” said Thambo.

“The fact that it has taken overwhelming public pressure for the department to issue a statement three days after this phone was found, reveals nothing but a concerted effort to cover up the corruption that characterises our prison system.

“Of more concern are the reports that the phone Lukhele had while in prison was bought and smuggled through Correctional Service officials to him by a member of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA).”

The EFF said Lukhele, who worked as a research senior manager in the Mpumalanga ANC chief whip Fidel Mlombo’s office, undoubtedly used his political connections in the governing party and influence in the province “to gain access to privileges that make a mockery of our justice system and the pain of the Gardee family”.

“The EFF calls for the immediate investigation and sanctions on all those involved, not only through a pretentious internal disciplinary proceeding run by a compromised department, but through public prosecution and ultimately arrest. Corruption in correctional facilities undermines the character of these institutions as places that should ensure that those who break the law are consequenced and rehabilitated,” said Thambo.

“Lukhele clearly has an undue influence across the legislative, correctional and investigative institutions in Mpumalanga, and the decisive move to place him in a maximum security prison must be followed by harsh consequences for those he bought his privileges from.

“All those found to have made calls to and received calls from this contraband phone, as well as those who received and sent WhatsApp and SMS texts, including the legal team of the accused, should answer to these nefarious activities which constitute defeating the ends of justice.”

Department of Correctional Services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said this week that Lukhele would be moved to a more secure prison after being found with the contraband.

“The Department of Correctional Services can confirm that remand detainee Philemon Lukhele was found to be in possession of a mobile phone on May 24, 2022 at the Nelspruit Correctional Centre. Mobile phones are classified as contraband inside correctional facilities, thus making them unauthorised items,” said Nxumalo in a statement.

“An investigation is under way as it is crucial to ascertain the circumstances under which this mobile phone was smuggled (in) and the people involved. A criminal case has also been registered with the SAPS with case number: CAS 420/05/2022.”

He also stated that Lukhele has been transferred to a maximum section of the Barberton Correctional Centre.

The statement further places emphasis on the department’s “no tolerance of acts that seek to compromise the safety standards enforced by the department”.

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