Johannesburg - Police Minister Bheki Cele allegedly coerced police in Mpumalanga to make sure that EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu was implicated in the murder of Hillary Gardee in order to settle a personal score with the red beret leader.
The rift between Cele and Shivambu dates back to November 2018, when the EFF leader lodged an official complaint with former police commissioner General Khehla Sitole that he had uncovered a plot by a senior ANC leader to assassinate him, and that izinkabi (hit men) from Kwazulu-Natal had been brought to Johannesburg to kill him.
The Sunday Independent can today exclusively reveal that the hit on Shivambu was exposed when the hit men found him sitting with one of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s advisers, known to this newspaper, but did not shoot him to avoid causing a political storm.
“One of the hit men allegedly sent word to the adviser to avoid meeting with Floyd for the next few days because they were in Joburg to kill him (Shivambu), and it was the adviser who gave Shivambu a tip-off about the planned hit,” a source with intimate knowledge of the case, who asked not to be named for his own safety, said yesterday.
In a letter to Sitole dated November 29, 2018, which has been seen by The Sunday Independent, Shivambu wrote: “I write to officially inform you of a life threat that has been brought to my attention. I have it on good authority that assassins were hired to kill me, and that they have been following me for some time now, mostly when I am in Johannesburg.”
Shivambu added that, if necessary, he could arrange that “police or investigators meet with the people who alerted me of the threat to my life”.
According to Shivambu, his colleagues told him they had informed Cele “about the threat and he has not reverted back to us”.
On November 30, 2018, the police confirmed that they had received Shivambu’s complaint and promised to investigate.
Shivambu also repeated the same accusations during the State of the Nation address in Parliament this year when he said: “There are ministers who hired inkabi to kill Members of Parliament who are about to expose them for corruption.”
Shivambu has accused Cele of either being part of the plot to assassinate him or protecting the minister who hired the hit men to kill him.
Yesterday Shivambu accused Cele and the ANC of trying to use Gardee’s murder case “to fight political battles and trying to cast doubt on the leadership of the EFF”.
Gardee is the daughter of former EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee. She was kidnapped, raped and killed in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, on April 29. Her body was found on May 3, dumped in a plantation about 60km outside Nelspruit.
One of the three men of accused of killing Gardee, Philemon Lukhele, has submitted an affidavit to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate in which he claims he was tortured and forced to implicate Shivambu in Gardee’s murder.
It isn’t a secret that Shivambu knows Lukhele, an eSwati national exiled in South Africa, whom he met and befriended while studying at Wits University. Shivambu also played a role when Lukhele was appointed Wits SRC president in 2003, and the EFF leader was also elected as the SRC president the following year.
Lukhele, in his affidavit to the directorate, claims he told police he couldn’t implicate Shivambu because he hadn’t spoken to him in five years.
When approached for comment about Lukhele’s allegations, Shivambu yesterday said: “The ANC is using a very sensitive issue of femicide and gender-based violence to fight political battles and trying to cast doubt on the leadership of the EFF. We are not criminals, we have never been criminals, and will never be criminals.
“We are not like ANC criminals and will never be like them. We will expose all involved in driving the nonsensical conspiracy, and we know that a minister is involved because we will expose his hiring of inkabi and the massive corruption he’s involved in.”
Cele refused to answer six questions sent to him on Friday.
Yesterday his spokesperson, Lirhandzu Themba, said: “Minister Cele has no comment on this.”
Lukhele was arrested with Sipho Mkhatshwa, who was reportedly born in eSwatini but adopted by a South African family, and Albert Gama, who is said to be an eSwati national and undocumented in South Africa.
The trio were arrested after Mkhatshwa allegedly went to a sangoma for cleansing but refused to pay for the services.
Police sources claim that Mkhatshwa allegedly offered one of the children from his fiancée’s previous marriage, who was born with albinism, as payment for the service. However, the sangoma said he wanted money.
After Mkhatshwa failed to pay, the sangoma allegedly tipped off the police.
Mkhatshwa also submitted an affidavit to the directorate in which he claimed he was tortured. However, a spokesperson for the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Brigadier Selvy Mohlala, vehemently denied the men were tortured.
Lukhele was this week moved to a correctional centre in Barberton, outside Nelspruit, where he was found in possession of a mobile phone in his prison cell.
It has been reported that Lukhele has been using the phone for almost two weeks.