The office of ANC Chief Whip in Mpumalanga has suspended of one its employees who were arrested in connection to Hillary Gardee’s murder.
The employee, Philemon Lukhele, has been suspended without pay pending a disciplinary hearing.
“It is true that today I am from the Nelspruit correctional services where I handed to Mr Philemon Lukhele, who is an employee in the office of the Chief Whip in Mpumalanga, a suspension letter without pay effective from today at nine o’clock.
“This suspension is pending a disciplinary hearing which will be held immediately when he receives bail if he receives bail,” ANC’s Mpumalanga legislature chief whip, Vincent Mlombo told Newzroom Afrika on Thursday.
Mlombo dismissed reports that Lukhele would be fired.
“There’s nowhere we have indicated that we are going to fire him. We have not yet pronounced ourselves on a decision to fire him. The decision to fire him will be taken after a disciplinary hearing that will take place immediately when he comes back,” he said.
The chief whip said Lukhele’s arrest has brought his office into disrepute, adding that the charges against the suspect fall within the highest level of seriousness of their code of conduct.
“The charges against him all fall in the highest category of offences that demands a sanction of suspension or dismissal or final warning depending on his submission when he is in a disciplinary hearing.
“His arrest has an office of ANC Chief Whip in Mpumalanga in disrepute so it is a serious charge, but we cannot prejudge the outcome of the disciplinary hearing hence we want to give him a hearing. From that hearing we will decide if he happens to be released on bail,” Mlombo said.
Describing Lukhele’s reaction to his suspension, Mlombo said: “He indicated to me that he understands the action that we have taken and that he holds no grudges against myself and that he understands the seriousness of his charges. But it is his responsibility now to prove himself that he is not guilty”.
Lukhele, alongside Sipho Lawrence Mkatshwa and Mduzuzi Gama, is facing charges of murder, rape, conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping and possession of illegal firearms.
They will remain behind bars until 9 June when they return to court.
Hillary Gardee, the daughter of the former EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee, was laid to rest over the weekend after she went missing at the Nelspruit Plaza end of April.
The 28-year-old was found on 3 May in a timber plantation about 40km outside Mbombela days after she was reported missing.
Meanwhile, Cabinet has welcomed the arrest and prosecution of the three men.
During a media briefing on Thursday, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele said Gardee’s death was a stark reminder of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVFV) in South Africa.
Gungubele also noted the killing of six people in a mass shooting in Khayelitsha over the weekend.
“These senseless murders are a reminder that we must do more as a society to end GBVF. Cabinet urged all people in the country to work with the government in the fight against crime and GBVF.
“Together we can ensure that our communities and streets are safer for all people, including the elderly, women and children,” the minister said.