Additional reporting: Siyabonga Sithole
A prominent guest house which houses student is at the centre of the latest arrests in the Hillary Gardee murder trial set to resume at the Nelspruit Magistrates court in Mpumalanga on Monday.
Two suspects were arrested on Sunday and early hours of Monday morning are said to be prominent “civil servant cum politician and a son of a politician”.
One of the suspects is further identified as an Eswatini national who works for the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature and a former student representative with links to the People’s United Democratic Movement (Pudemo) living in South Africa.
According to Swati news, this suspect is exiled in South Africa due to persecution by the regime in that country. The second one has been identified as son of a prominent executive mayor and deputy minister. Both are yet to be formally identified due to the nature of the case.
The two arrests comes after EFF leader Julius Malema who was addressing mourners at the funeral had alluded to the prominence of the alleged killers calling them “ gentlemen who wear suits".
“ They wear suits and call themselves gentlemen. They are not nyaope addicts. They own properties in Nelspruit and some of them have political credentials, “ Malema told mourners on Saturday.
Lieutenant Colonel Mdhluli in a statement issued by provincial police commissioner Samakeleng Manamela confirmed the two arrests bring the total number of arrests to three and did not rule out more prominent arrests in the coming days.
“This is encouraging and as we indicated that there were other people of interest that we are following and interviewing. Through our investigation, which is still proceeding, we are able to come out with information which we fully believe that the two are the right suspects,” reads part of the statement.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) welcomed and expressed appreciation to the SAPS following the arrest of three suspects in connection with the murder of Hillary Gardee.
Gardee, 28 was buried on Saturday in a moving ceremony which was attended by the family, EFF, government officials including police Minister Bheki Cele and some dignitaries from across the continent.
She was brutally murdered and her body dumped outside Mbombela last week after she went missing on 29 April.
Mpumalanga police confirmed the arrest, the three suspects are expected to appear in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s court on Monday.
“The EFF welcomes the arrest of three suspects after a commitment to make concrete progress on finding the perpetrators in a short period of time, the SAPS has not only made good on their promise after the arrest of a suspect on the eve of Gardee’’s funeral, but have apprehended two more suspects.
The family and the EFF will allow the police to continue with their work, and ensure that they are provided with all manner of resources to enhance their investigation,” said EFF national spokesperson Sinawo Thambo.
He said the family will be in attendance, and they hope justice will be served to the fullest extent.
“Considering that the first suspect was apprehended while fleeing and in hiding, the family and the EFF are of the considered view that all the accused must be denied bail, as they are collectively an undeniable flight risk,” Thambo said.
The Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela said she appreciated the energy and commitment put by the established team that is probing Gadee’s murder case.
“This is encouraging and as we indicated that there were other people of interest that we were following and interviewing. Through our investigation, which is still proceeding, we were able to come out with information that we fully believe the two are the right suspects” said Manamela.
She said the two are to join the 39-year-old suspect that was arrested on Friday in Schoemansdal (Nkomazi).
“As earlier indicated, more suspects may be arrested as the intensive investigation proceeds into the murder of Gardee,” she said..
Manamela indicated that for the sake of succeeding in this case the public, including media is urged to support the team of investigators as they follow some leads so that everyone that has a hand on the murder of Gardee is brought to book.
“If we are to send a strong message against the brutal abuse, harassment and killing of women in this country, the appearance of those accused with this heinous crime must be used as an opportunity to show the unity of society against Gender-Based Violence,” Thambo said.