ICYMI: Gardee murder a stark reminder of SA’s femicide shame

It’s a horrible fact: South Africa has one of the world’s highest femicide rates. Women and girls are under attack, often by the men who claim to love them

These murders crowd news headlines every week and sometimes, a story crashes into the public consciousness because of its sheer brutality or the people involved. You’ve probably heard the name “Hillary Gardee” by now or seen photographs of the smiling young woman. A quick recap: the 28-year-old Gardee, whose father is former EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee, was reported missing on 29 April; she had last been seen at a shopping centre in Nelspruit’s central business district. Days later her body was found amid some bushes near Mbombela.

Police Minister Bheki Cele was quickly on the scene. He activated a 72-hour action plan. It worked: three men were quickly arrested for Gardee’s murder; one suspect, Philemon Lukhele, is a researcher for the office of the ANC’s Mpumalanga chief whip. He, Sipho Mkhatshwa and Albert Gama have already appeared in court and charged with conspiring to murder the young IT student. Gardee was buried on Saturday in Kamagugu, Nelspruit; she was remembered as a fighter. “From the moment you were born, you were named after great women leaders of the world, for in you we saw a bright future. Little did we know you’d die a tragic death,” said her devastated father. 😔

The police’s 72-hour activation plan has been used in other cases and exemplifies the kind of swift, focused police work that can deliver justice to victims, their families and communities. It should not be the exception and it can’t exist in a vacuum massive structural changes are needed to tackle the combination of patriarchy and toxic masculinity that drives femicide.

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