South African model Gabriella Engels beaten up by Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe after she found her with her son

Zimbabweans 'apologise' to SA over Grace Mugabe 'wrath'

The South African model who claimed she was beaten up by Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe is taking legal action over the government’s decision to grant her diplomatic immunity.

Police had placed border posts on ‘red alert’ to stop Mrs Mugabe from leaving the country after it was claimed she whipped 20-year-old model Gabriella Engels with an electrical cord in a luxury hotel room in Johannesburg.

However, South Africa’s international relations minister later said she had been granted diplomatic immunity.

Advocacy group Afriforum has now given its legal backing to Engels, and is working on the case with Gerrie Nel – the prosecutor who secured a murder conviction against Oscar Pistorius.

We want to set aside the granting of diplomatic immunity to Grace Mugabe,’ Afriforum CEO Kallie Kriel said.

She added that it could take months before the case is heard in court and that no date had been set for the hearing.

Mrs Mugabe, the wife of 93-year-old Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, returned home to Harare early on Sunday.

The decision to grant her diplomatic immunity was widely criticised in South Africa.

Engels accused Mugabe of whipping her with an electric extension cable as she waited with two friends in a luxury hotel suite to meet one of Mugabe’s adult sons.

Harare has made no official comment on the issue.

Although the scandal has been widely reported around the world, Zimbabwe’s state media has remained largely silent on the issue.

South African model challenges Grace Mugabe’s immunity

A South African model who was allegedly attacked by Zimbabwe’s first lady has asked a court to annul the government’s decision to grant Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity.

Willie Spies, a lawyer from AfriForum – a civil rights group that has given legal backing to the alleged victim, Gabriella Engels – said on Thursday that South Africa’s foreign minister “misinterpreted the law” by “recognising the immunities and privileges” of Mugabe.

“Maite Nkoana-Mashabane applied the wrong principles,” Spies told AFP news agency, adding a hearing into the case would start on September 19.

Court documents seen by AFP also ask the court to declare the diplomatic immunity decision “does not confer immunity from prosecution”.

The wife of President Robert Mugabe allegedly attacked Engels as the 20-year-old model waited with two friends in a luxury hotel suite in Johannesburg to meet one of Mugabe’s adult sons.

The attack left Engels with cuts on her head and forehead. She filed an assault charge against the 52-year-old Mugabe.

She was supposed to have reported to the police to make a statement about the incident, but did not.

Police minister Fikile Mbalula then said “a red alert” had been sent out to border police and “she is not somebody who has been running away”.

However, Mugabe flew out of South Africa on a pre-dawn flight on a presidential jet on Sunday. Hours later, the foreign ministry announced it had granted her immunity.

On Wednesday, South African lawmakers heckled Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as he answered a question in parliament on the debacle.

He said the decision to grant immunity was taken in line with “internationally recognised immunity regulations” and admitted it was “the first time we have utilised this type of convention”.

Harare has made no official comment on the issue and requests for comment from Zimbabwean officials have gone unanswered.

Zimbabweans ‘apologise’ to SA over Grace Mugabe ‘wrath’

A group of prominent Zimbabwean political activists on Wednesday apologised to South Africans following the recent assault of a 20 year-old model at a Sandton hotel by President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace.

This came at a time when the Zimbabwean First Lady was yet to make any public pronouncements regarding the issue.

The Zimbabwean First Lady allegedly assaulted Gabriella Engels with an extension cord and severely injured her after she found her in the company of one of her two sons living and learning in South Africa, Bellarmine Chatunga. The Mugabe brothers were known for their notoriety and lavish spending.

The group, calling itself “Vana veDzimbabwe” or Children of Zimbabwe, submitted the letter of apology at the South African embassy in Harare.

‘Deeply ashamed’

“We as children of this land do hereby submit this apology to the people of South Africa for the assault of South African citizen Gabriella Engels by the wife of our president, First Lady Dr Grace Mugabe on the 13th of August 2017,” read part of the letter.

“On behalf of our nation and her people, we want you to know that we are deeply ashamed at this unfortunate incident. It is our natural, moral and religious conviction that violence is abhorrent and not a good solution to any issue where dialogue and mediation are possible.”

Meanwhile, some four other pro-democracy groups also petitioned the South African High Commission challenging the credibility of the diplomatic immunity given to the Zimbabwean First Lady by South African authorities following her assault of the model.

Grace was yet to appear in public following her attack of Engels.

The four organisations, namely United Citizens Alliance, National Election Reform Agenda Youth Forum, Zimbabwe Vote 2018 and the Concerned Citizens Network said Gabriella should receive sufficient remedy for the “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment she received from Grace Mugabe”.

Diplomatic relations

“We as citizens feel very unsafe with such kind of a mother, who fails to control her tempers in public domain. Having been on a medical visit to South Africa, Grace Mugabe automatically was not worth receiving immunity,” said Joelson Mugari, chairperson of the United Citizens Alliance.

Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu told News24 that Engels, who claimed that she was offered an undisclosed sum of money by the Zimbabwean First Lady for her to drop the assault charges but opted to pursue the legal route, was now a victim of diplomatic relations between Pretoria and Harare.

“Sacrificing diplomatic relations between Zimbabwe and South Africa was never an option and the victim becomes a victim at the altar of diplomacy,” said Mukundu.

This was not the first time that Grace Mugabe assaulted a foreign national outside Zimbabwe. In 2009, the Zimbabwean First Lady assaulted British journalist Richard Jones in Hong Kong and evaded arrest when she was granted diplomatic immunity..

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