Accused of assault in South Africa, Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe flies home

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South African model Gabriella Engels has accused Zimbabwe's First Lady Grace Mugabe of beating her with an electrical extension cable at a Johannesburg hotel

Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace
Mugabe flew home from South Africa on Sunday, state media said, ending a
week of confusion over her whereabouts after she allegedly assaulted a
model.
Mugabe, who had been sought by
police for allegedly attacking the 20-year-old model at a Johannesburg
hotel, was granted diplomatic immunity in the case by South Africa’s
foreign minister on Saturday.
“The minister has made the determination that the conferring of diplomatic immunity is warranted in this particular instance,” the ministry said Sunday, citing a need “to maintain good inter-governmental relations” in the region.

“The decision was not an easy one to make,” it added, saying that Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane had “agonised” over the case.
Grace Mugabe later flew home with her husband in the early hours of Sunday, public broadcaster ZBC reported.
The
president had flown to South Africa on Wednesday to attend a two-day
regional summit in Pretoria that began Saturday — which police said she
had been expected to attend.
Grace Mugabe has not been seen since the allegations were made and failed to appear at the summit.
Anticipating her arrival, a group of protesters had gathered outside, some waving signs reading “Grace is a disgrace”.
The
93-year-old president appeared to cut short his visit to fly home
early, skipping the second day of talks among leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
South
African police had said they were on high alert to make sure Mugabe’s
52-year-old wife did not leave the country with officials reportedly
weighing up whether to issue an arrest warrant.

Hot-tempered

Protesters gathered outside a summit of regional leaders in Pretoria which Zimbabwe's first lady had been due to attend, some waving signs reading "Grace is a disgrace"

Protesters
gathered outside a summit of regional leaders in Pretoria which
Zimbabwe’s first lady had been due to attend, some waving signs reading
“Grace is a disgrace”
(AFP)

The
first lady is alleged to have assaulted Gabriella Engels with an
electrical extension cable on August 13 at the hotel where the model was
staying with Mugabe’s two sons who have a reputation for partying.
Engels
said she suffered deep cuts to her forehead and the back of her head
and has opened a police case alleging assault with intent to do grievous
bodily harm.
On Wednesday, Mugabe
applied for diplomatic immunity although South African officials were
not immediately available on Saturday to say whether or not her request
had been granted.

Political headache

Seen as a potential successor to her husband, Grace Mugabe is known for her temper.
In
2009, she successfully claimed immunity in Hong Kong after repeatedly
punching a British photographer for taking pictures of her at a luxury
hotel.
The alleged assault is a political
headache for South Africa and Zimbabwe which are close neighbours with
deep economic and historical ties.
Zimbabwean officials have declined to comment on the allegations against the first lady or her immunity claim.

‘A thug’

Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe has three children with President Robert Mugabe, who is 93

Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe has three children with President Robert Mugabe, who is 93
(AFP/File)

On
Sunday, Zimbabwe’s state media made its first mention of the alleged
assault, hitting out at the “media frenzy” and saying there was “nothing
meaningful being said”.
But a spokesman for Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said Mugabe should not be granted immunity, describing her as “a thug and violent person who committed a heinous assault on an innocent young woman.”
“Whatever is legally possible should be done to ensure that she faces the full wrath of the law. There should be no impunity,” MDC spokesman Obert Gutu told AFP.
“She is a disgrace and she owes us an apology for tarnishing our image as a nation.”
And
AfriForum, a pro-Afrikaner civil rights organisation which helps
victims of crime and has vowed to help Engels seek justice, also
denounced what it said was a regional “culture of impunity”.
“We have corrupt government people (…) who are protecting one another,” said Willie Spies, a lawyer for AfriForum, suggesting the authorities had turned a blind eye to her departure.
“She has left the country. The whole thing was done secretly.”

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