Hillary Gardee’s Suspected Killer ‘Tortured’ Into Implicating EFF’s Floyd Shivambu
Police allegedly tortured a suspect arrested in connection with the murder of Hillary Gardee in order to implicate Economic Freedom Fighters deputy president Floyd Shivambu in the April killing in Mpumalanga.
This is according to a sworn statement given by Philemon Lukhele, one of three men arrested for the murder of Gardee, the daughter of former EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee.
Torture claims by Lukhele’s co-accused include waterboarding, suffocation, and electrocution. Despite being contacted by TimesLIVE more than three times for his comment, Shivambu has not responded. His WhatsApp profile shows that he read the messages sent to him by TimesLIVE. According to EFF spokesperson Sinawo Tambo, the police “at no time” indicated Shivambu was a “person of interest.”
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On May 13, Lukhele and his co-accused testified to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate about alleged torture by officers investigating Gardee’s murder (Ipid).
Lizzy Shuping, an Ipid spokesperson, stated that an investigation into the alleged torture was underway. “Interviews were conducted with the complainants. The investigation is still in its infancy.”
The statements provide insight into the first frantic hours of the police investigation, and how officers questioned Shivambu without indicating why or how he was allegedly involved. Mkhatshwa, Lukhele, and Gama were all arrested after Gardee’s body was discovered dumped next to a pine plantation in Mpumalanga, 40 kilometres outside Mbombela.
Gardee was abducted on her way home from the shops with her adopted three-year-old daughter on April 29 in Mbombela. Police believe she was murdered at a lodge owned by Lukhele and rented out to university students.
The three are facing a slew of charges, including rape, murder, and murder conspiracy. The statements show how, after officers appeared to be unable to solve the case, they allegedly launched a brutal assault on the trio, including some of their relatives.
Torture allegedly included electrocution, beatings, plastic bag suffocation, and waterboarding. Lukhele, who told Ipid investigators he could identify some of his alleged assailants who tortured him over three days, details how he was arrested at his lodge where Gardee was allegedly killed in his statement.
He claimed that he was with a friend when he learned that police were at his lodge and that when he arrived, he was beaten by officers who demanded to know if he knew Shivambu, Mkhatshwa, and two other men.
“I told them I only knew Floyd and Mkhatshwa. They asked when I last saw Floyd and Sipho. I told them I last saw Floyd five years ago … and Sipho four months ago. [I told them] I had no contact with Floyd.”
When asked about Gardee and her murder at his lodge, Lukhele stated that if she had been murdered there, he would have known and would have reported her death to the police.
“I told them I had only heard about her death on the news. Another group of officers came and said I was playing games with them.
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“They handcuffed my hands and hit me with fists in my abdomen and demanded that I tell the truth.”
He claimed that while being assaulted, an officer yelled at him that he had discovered blood in his car and that it was the “blood of the Gardee girl…”
“I was hit with fists and the barrel of a firearm. I was taken to a police station. My younger brother, Skhumbuzo was there, bleeding on the forehead. He said he was assaulted by the police. Skhumbuzo was taken away by the police.”
Lukhele claimed his legs were shackled and the second set of handcuffs were placed on him, with a rope tied to his hands and feet. “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.
“They made me lie on the floor on my stomach. My shoes were taken off. Something that generated electricity was plugged into my toes and electrocuted me. They said I must give them a sign if I wanted to talk.”
In his statement, Lukhele claimed that police repeatedly electrocuted him and demanded that he confess to the crimes and that Mkhatshwa had implicated him. “They continued electrocuting me.”
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He claimed officers stood on his neck and back demanding he admit to the killing, and that when he refused again, they took him to a toilet and forced him to sit next to it, facing up, while an officer stood on his handcuffed hands and another poured water over this face with a bucket “demanding I tell the truth”.
“They put a plastic bag against my face and suffocated me. This was done many times … I lost consciousness.”
When Lukhele regained consciousness, he stated, “… I was forced to sign a certain paper without explanation.”
He claimed that on the second day of his detention, officers informed him that they were giving him a chance to come clean and that there was a team of officers who would hurt him even more than he had already suffered. “I maintained me innocence ….”
In his statement, Mkhatshwa claims that on the day of his arrest, he was awoken in the early hours of the morning by police beating on his window and threatening to shoot him if he did not open up for them.
“When my wife asked what they were beating me for they insulted her and told her that they didn’t care that she was pregnant and that they would beat her as well.”
Mkhatshwa claims he was forced to transport them to the homes of two of his friends, one of whom was a teacher who was later arrested at a nearby school.
He claimed they were taken to a police station where he was questioned and beaten. “I was asked questions such as why I thought the police were there. I informed them that I was not aware, as they had not told me. The beatings then started all over again, [with the officers] saying I was making them fools.”
Officers did not believe Mkhatshwa when he told them he worked for the Ekurhuleni municipality and questioned him about his money lending business, according to Mkhatshwa.
He claimed that he was beaten because he gave the officers a response that they did not like. “They began to ask me what I knew about a recent murder, to which I responded I knew nothing … they began to connect my small toes to a machine … as I was lying face down they placed a plastic [bag] on my head right down to my neck …
“As I struggled to breathe some of the police officials would press the plastic closer to my mouth and nose so that I could not breathe. The electric machine to which my toes were connected was also used.
“Each time they asked me a question and I responded honestly I would be suffocated and electrocuted. I said what they wanted me to say.”
My toes were also connected to an electric machine, which was also used. “Each time they asked me a question and I responded honestly I would be suffocated and electrocuted. I said what they wanted me to say.”
He claimed the officers then presented him with a confession statement. Mkhatshwa claimed he was taken to the Mpumalanga police headquarters and questioned about what he had said by another officer. “I told him what I had said under torture and I was open to stating what was true. I was made to sign the statement of alleged confession to murder implicating innocent people to something myself I know nothing about.”
According to Gama’s statement, when he arrived at a police station in Mbombela, he saw Lukhele’s younger brother, Skhumbuzo, “who was bleeding.”
He claimed he could hear Lukhele “screaming and crying in the other room” while in a police station room. Gama stated that he was taken from the room he was in and into the room where Lukhele had been.
“The police officials told me Lukhele told them everything. They told me I would tell them the truth.
“One put handcuffs on my hands at my back and the other put a plastic bag on my face. They also shocked me … on my feet. They also beat me with fists all over my body and kicked me.”
According to Lukhele and Gama’s legal team, they are “sensitive and alive to the pain the Gardee family is experiencing.” They are not guilty of the charges.
“The allegations stated by our clients in their affidavit to Ipid will be ventilated in court. It’s enough for us to confirm that, the Ipid statement is indeed their statement.”
“There was never any point in time where any law enforcement agency, be it the police or the commissioners or their deputies, indicated to us that the deputy president of the EFF was a person of interest,” Tambo of the EFF said.
“That was never disclosed, not to the EFF, nor to the family that Floyd Shivambu is a person of interest. It’s just concerning that if there were claims of torture they claimed that there was a persistence of driving it to a certain direction. What would be the purpose of that?”
This article was originally published on TimesLive
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