Mbombela shutdown delays Hillary Gardee murder trial

Published Jul 7, 2022


Tshwarelo Hunter Mogakane

Proceedings in the trial against three men charged with the kidnapping, rape and murder of 28-year-old IT entrepreneur Hillary Gardee were delayed due to the ongoing shutdown in Mbombela, Mpumalanga’s capital city, where the case is being heard.

EFF leaders and members arrived at the court in their numbers to give support to the Gardee family, as they have been doing since May.

“(Our leader) Veronica Mente is with the Gardee family ahead of the court appearance of the accused kidnappers and murderers of Hillary Gardee. The court has been delayed due to the #MbombelaShutdown over escalating fuel hikes,” tweeted the EFF.

The Mbombela (Nelspruit) shutdown took South Africans by surprise when photos and videos went viral on different social media platforms, including on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, yesterday morning.

The shutdown happened without any prior announcement, sparking debate on whether the intentions would succeed or if it was a waste of time.

Roads were blockaded with vehicles, making it difficult for motorists and passengers to gain access to the inner city.

The trial resumes at a time when there remains uncertainty over the shutdown, which continued sporadically on Thursday around Mbombela and surrounding areas.

Former EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee is the father of the murder victim.

He has constantly been posting about police reluctance to act on information he provided about additional people who should be arrested in connection with his daughter’s murder.

On some days, the grieving father posts the number of days that have passed since his daughter was killed and dumped in the bushes.

The Gardee family have received support, mainly from the EFF, and from other parties and individuals.

The accused in the case are Sipho Mkhatshwa, 39, Philemon Lukhele, 47, and Albert Gama, 52.

They initially abandoned bail in May but have now asked the court to allow them to make their separate applications.

Mkhatshwa's lawyers, Bhila Attorneys, previously withdrew as the accused’s representative in the middle of the bail application.

The court accepted his legal representative’s plea that he had a conflict of interest in the matter.