The South African Police Service (SAPS) says Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe is still in South Africa and is seeking diplomatic immunity.
Mugabe had been widely reported to be back in Zimbabwe after failing to hand herself over to the authorities as agreed in negotiations, following a charge of assault against her by 20-year-old model, Gabriella Engels.
But SAPS has issued a statement saying “The suspect, (her) lawyers, and her government representatives made verbal representations to SAPS investigators that the suspect wished to invoke diplomatic immunity”
According to the statement, “her itinerary includes amongst private matters her attendance and participation at the scheduled SADC Heads of State/Governments Summit and Bilateral Diplomatic Meetings already underway in Pretoria”
It is alleged that Mugabe attacked Gabriella with an extension cable and plug on Sunday when she found the model with her two sons in a room at the hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg, leaving her with a head injury.
“We were chilling in a hotel room, and (the sons) were in the room next door. She came in and started hitting us,” Engels, who reported the assault at the Morningside Police Station, had claimed.
There was confusion on Tuesday over Mugabe’s whereabouts and whether or not the authorities would take action against her. Police Minister Fikile Mbalula earlier announced that she had handed herself over to the police but later said he assumed she would when it turned out that she did not do so and did not appear in court as expected.
National Police Spokesperson Vish Naidoo confirmed that there were negotiations that required the first lady to hand herself over to the authorities but would not verify whether she was still in the country or not.
“I think I’ve answered all your questions….If there is a further update to provide you, we would most certainly do that,” Naidoo told newsmen when asked on Tuesday whether she was still in the country.
Debbie Engels, the mother of the assault victim, is pleading with the authorities not to grant the first lady diplomatic immunity, saying that the attack on her daughter was unprovoked.
She praised her daughter for reporting the case.
“She should be proud of herself for standing up and speaking out and not becoming one of Grace’s victims that just keep quiet and just let it go,” Gabriella’s mum told eNCA.
DA weighs in
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on the Police Minister to ensure that Grace Mugabe does not flee South Africa like the ICC-indicted Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir was allowed to do.
The DA says the diplomatic immunity act applies to heads of state and not to first ladies. The party is urging the police to arrest President Mugabe’s wife so that she can have her day in court.
Sack Manana now, women urge Zuma
In a related development, the African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) wants President Jacob Zuma to fire Deputy Higher Education Minister Mduduzi Manana.
In a letter to the president, the ANCWL says it would lodge an urgent court application if Zuma fails to do so.
Manana is to appear in court on September 13 after securing a 5000 rands bail during his previous appearance at the Randburg Magistrates Court to face charges of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The organization says retaining the minister in cabinet undermines the government’s commitment to end violence against women.