FORMER First Lady Grace Mugabe is facing fresh trouble in South Africa, with a case in which her diplomatic immunity is being challenged set to begin tomorrow.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Authorities in South Africa granted Grace diplomatic immunity after she allegedly attacked model, Gabriella Engels, who had been partying with her two sons Robert Jnr and Chatunga Bellarmine last August.
Grace allegedly left Engels with a deep gush on the forehead after attacking the then 20-year-old with an electric extension cable.
After days of uncertainty, Grace left South Africa and the Afrikaner lobby group, AfriForum challenged the granting of diplomatic immunity by the country’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation then headed by former minister Maite Nkoane Mashabane.
In a statement yesterday, AfriForum said the Pretoria High Court would hear the case tomorrow.
“The civil rights watchdog, AfriForum’s application against an earlier decision by the minister of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) to grant diplomatic immunity to Grace Mugabe, the former First Lady of Zimbabwe, will be heard in the High Court in Pretoria on May 10 and 11, 2018.
“This court application is the first important step in a process to have Mugabe prosecuted for her alleged assault of Gabriella Engels, a young Johannesburg model, in August 2017,” the group said.
Grace has not set foot in South Africa since then, but her situation has been exacerbated by her husband, Robert Mugabe’s ouster as President, while in the neighbouring country there has also been a change of government, with Cyril Ramaphosa having taken over from Jacob Zuma.
AfriForum said Grace and her sons were known for extravagant lifestyles.
“It is common knowledge that Mugabe and her offspring maintained extravagant lifestyles and spent enormous amounts of money on accommodation, shopping and parties in, among others, Sandton and Johannesburg, when she was still the First Lady of Zimbabwe,” the group said.The granting of diplomatic immunity allowed Grace to leave South Africa along with her husband, who was in that country for a Sadc meeting, without being made to answer to any charges.
“At the time, the South African government decided, in a very controversial manner, to silently grant diplomatic immunity to Grace Mugabe, thus, giving her the opportunity to return to Zimbabwe from South Africa and, therefore, evade prosecution in South Africa.
“Because of her being granted diplomatic immunity, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) could not further investigate the charges against Mugabe of assault with the intention to cause grievous bodily harm and AfriForum, therefore, launched a court application to have the controversial grant set aside,” AfriForum said.
It added that a number of cases had since been brought before the Pretoria High Court.
“Various other institutions have since brought similar applications with the High Court in Pretoria and also entered the proceedings as friends of the court. Therefore, all the applications around this case will be heard simultaneously.
“Should AfriForum be successful in having this diplomatic immunity to Mugabe set aside, it will pave the way for the NPA to take steps to ultimately prosecute Mugabe,” the rights group said.
AfriForum said it was ready to proceed with a private prosecution should authorities in South Africa refuse.
“AfriForum indicated earlier that its private prosecuting unit under leadership of Gerrie Nel stands at the ready to institute private prosecution should the NPA decide not to prosecute Mugabe,” the statement said.
The Mugabes reportedly have various upmarket properties in South Africa, including one worth $5 million purchased just before the former Zanu PF leader was removed from power.
Mugabe earlier this year travelled to South Africa on a trip that reports claimed was to “regularise his properties”.