Tshwarelo Hunter Mogakane
Pretoria - Lawyers representing one of the three men accused of abducting, raping and murdering 28-year-old IT entrepreneur Hillary Gardee say their client deserves to be released on bail in order for him to return to work.
The 39-year-old first accused in the case, Sipho Mkhatshwa, works as an Integrated Development Plan facilitator in the City of Ekurhuleni’s Strategy and Corporate Planning Department.
He will be applying for bail tomorrow after he and his two co-accused, Philemon Lukhele, 47, and Albert Gama, 52, initially abandoned bail last month.
Mkhatshwa was arrested on May 6 after allegedly consulting a sangoma to cleanse him from a spiritual dark cloud linked to killing a person.
According to police records, the sangoma blew the whistle, leading to the arrest of Mkhatshwa and the two others following Gardee’s disappearance.
The discovery of her body at a plantation a mere 35 minutes away from her home in Mbombela caused a nationwide outcry, forcing Police Minister Bheki Cele to lead a top team of investigators to the scene.
On May 24, Mkhatshwa’s legal representatives approached the court with the intention of applying for bail on behalf of their client.
The State intended to oppose bail, but could not do so due to a bereavement in the family of the investigating officer.
The case was then postponed to June 2. “Our client’s employer has made contact with him asking to know if he would remain detained for the rest of the trial, which they made clear that if that is the case, his continued detention would be treated as abscondment and dereliction of duty.
“We believe our client should be treated as the innocent man that he is, of course, until, and only if, this competent court has found otherwise,” said Mkhatshwa's attorney, Sebastean Bhila.
He told the Pretoria News a dangerous precedent was being created where accused persons were deemed guilty without legal proceedings being exhausted first.