No diplomatic immunity for Grace Mugabe

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A South African High Court overturned a decision by government to grant Zimbabwe’s former first lady Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity after she was accused of whipping a woman with an electric cord.

Model Gabriella Engels, the woman behind the assault allegation, last August filed a court application challenging government’s decision.

Grace Mugabe returned to Zimbabwe immediately after South Africa granted her diplomatic immunity, allowing her to evade prosecution for assault and causing a row in South Africa where the opposition Democratic Alliance challenged the ruling.

Mugabe denied assaulting Engels with an electric cable, saying an “intoxicated and unhinged” Engels attacked her with a knife. South African advocacy group Afriforum, which represented Engels, dismissed the allegations as lies.

According to Engels, an irate Grace Mugabe burst into the room where she was waiting with two friends in a Johannesburg luxury hotel suite to meet one of Mugabe’s sons last August and attacked her with an electric cable.

Photographs taken by Engels’ mother soon after the incident showed gashes to the model’s head and bruising on her thighs.

Judge Bashier Vally ruled the decision to grant diplomatic immunity was inconsistent with the constitution.

Willie Spies, a lawyer for Afriforum, said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) should now take action to prosecute Grace Mugabe and seek extradition to South Africa. Spies said if the NPA failed to take action, Afriforum would start proceedings against Grace Mugabe.
“The ball is in their court now,” Spies said, adding Afriforum argued Grace Mugabe committed the attack on Engels while on a private visit to South Africa and therefore did not qualify for diplomatic immunity.



NPA spokeswoman Phindi Mjnonondwana said the case was still in the hands of the police and had not yet been sent to the NPA for action. However, NPA spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku said South Africa and Zimbabwe previously co-operated on extraditing suspects.