The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) has launched has an investigation after one of the suspects connected to Hillary Gardee’s murder was found with a phone in prison.
The suspect, Philemon Lukhele, has been detained at the Nelspruit Correctional Centre in Mpumalanga and was caught in possession of the phone on Tuesday.
According to the department, phones are classified as contraband inside correctional facilities.
“An investigation is currently underway as it is critical to ascertain the circumstances under which this mobile phone was smuggled and the people involved.
“A criminal case has also been registered with the South African Police Service [Saps],” the department said in a statement.
Lukhele, who was recently stripped of his ANC membership, has since been transferred to the Barberton Correctional Centre, which is a maximum security facility.
“For the country to have safe and secure correctional centres, we expect nothing but strict adherence to safety standards from all those who interface with the Department of Correctional Services.
ALSO READ: Gardee blames victims’ silence and police incompetence for daughter Hillary’s death
“Hence, visitors, inmates, officials and private citizens caught contravening our regulations shall be dealt with through the criminal justice system.”
Lukhele is facing charges of murder, rape, conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping and possession of illegal firearms, alongside Sipho Lawrence Mkatshwa and Mduzuzi Gama.
The three suspects were arrested earlier this month in connection to Gardee’s murder.
They have already appeared at the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court and will return on 9 June.
The accused in the Hillary Gardee case are Sipho Mkhatshwa, Philemon Lukhele and Mduduzi Nkala
They have been charged with Conspiracy for murder, kidnapping, rape, murder, possession of firearm and defeating the ends of justice
The state opposes bail#JusticeForHillaryGardee pic.twitter.com/gOgjFkdoSH
— Economic Freedom Fighters (@EFFSouthAfrica) May 9, 2022
TimesLIVE has since reported that Lukhele was allegedly tortured by investigating officers over three days in order to implicate Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deputy president Floyd Shivambu in Gardee’s murder.
Lukhele, who was suspended without pay pending a disciplinary hearing by the office of the ANC chief whip in Mpumalanga, and his co-accused made similar allegations of torture in their sworn statements.
According to the publication, the suspects’ statements were sent to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), who have since launched an investigation into the allegations.
“They asked me about my involvement in the murder and that the murder was planned with Floyd Shivambu.
“They said I organised the people to kill her in my presence. They asked again about the involvement of Floyd Shivambu in the murder. I denied all of this,” Lukhele said in his statement.
READ MORE: Police defend investigation of Hillary Gardee’s murder after criticism by EFF
“They made me lie on the floor on my stomach. My shoes were taken off. Something that generated electricity was plugged on my toes and electrocuted [shocked] me. They said I must give them a sign if I wanted to talk,” he said.
Mpumalanga police denied these claims.
“There was no torture by the police to the suspects. The investigation is still ongoing and the case is currently on the court roll, so unfortunately we will not be able to comment on the merits and processes of the investigation,” Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brig Selvy Mohlala told TimesLIVE.
Hillary Gardee, the daughter of the former EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee, went missing at the Nelspruit Plaza on 29 April.
The 28-year-old was found on 3 May in a timber plantation about 40km outside Mbombela days after she was reported missing.
The EFF has launched its own investigation into Gardee’s murder by hiring private investigators.
EFF says Hillary Gardee’s head had bullet wound, accuses police of incompetence