NEWS

Is She Or Isn't She? This Is Where Things Stand In Terms Of The Grace Mugabe Assault Case

18/08/2017 17:44 SAST | Updated 18/08/2017 18:43 SAST
Gallo Images
HARARE, ZIMBABWE � JULY 28: President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace during a ZANU PF rally on July 28, 2013 in Harare, Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean President held his final campaign rally yesterday and called for unity of his ZANU PF party ahead of the general elections set for July 31. (Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Herman Verwey)

It was still unclear on Friday afternoon whether Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe has been granted diplomatic immunity or not.

Reuters reported on Friday that immunity would be granted to Mugabe, allowing her to return to Harare and avoid prosecution for the alleged assault of a 20-year-old model at an upmarket Sandton hotel.

Mugabe was visiting her sons at their hotel room, when she allegedly hit Gabriella Engels with an extension cord.

"What is likely to happen is that she will be allowed to go back home, and then we announce that we've granted diplomatic immunity and wait for somebody to challenge us," a senior government source told the news website.

It is rumoured that Mugabe found Engels and her sons Chutanga and Robert Jnr taking drugs at the upmarket hotel in Sandton. Engels has since denied this.

An article by Independent Online said the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco)) had denied that she would be granted immunity.

According to the report, Dirco spokesperson Nelson Kgwete said a decision has yet to made and that he knew nothing about reports suggesting otherwise.

"I think the outrage among the public about the case is exactly testament to that people are sick of political elites being treated special and exceptional to the law when any other ordinary person would have faced swift and consistent application of the law,"Zakhele Mbhele

In a statement released on Friday, the Democratic Alliance also weighed in on the matter saying Mugabe does not qualify for immunity and that the Zimbabwean first lady's lawyers were using it as a delaying tactic.
"The investigation is concluded, it should have been handed over to the NPA. What we are getting now is a run around as Grace Mugabe and her lawyers are trying delaying tactics by trying to attain diplomatic immunity," said the DA's Shadow Minister of Police Zakhele Mbhele.

The DA said it received confirmation from SAPS national spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo that the investigation had been finalised.

The party also reiterated that Mugabe's passports should be confiscated regardless of the red alert which has been imposed against her.

"We are now saying that as a further risk mitigation, the risk being she is a flight risk, her passports should be confiscated," said Mbhele.

Speaking to the African News Agency (ANA) on Thursday, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said: "We have already put tabs in the borders in relation to her leaving the country so there is no question about that. The red alert has been put."

Police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo explained that a red alert was necessary in this instance.

'We have what we call a movement control register in all our borders, when there is an investigation against somebody the person's name is embodied the register," he said.

On Tuesday, journalists waited outside the Randburg magistrate's with the impression that Mugabe would appear in court. Instead they were addressed by Mbalula, who confirmed that a case had been laid against the first lady.

According to Mbalula, Mugabe was cooperating with police which meant she did not have to be arrested.

Many including the DA believe that Mugabe has been give special treatment.

"I think the outrage among the public about the case is exactly testament to that people are sick of political elites being treated special and exceptional to the law when any other ordinary person would have faced swift and consistent application of the law," said Mbhele.

President Nelson Mandela's Former personal assistant Zelda la Grange was one of the many South Africans who spoke out against the so called "special treatment" Mugabe was receiving.

Diplomatic level
HuffPost SA spoke to experts who explained that this is simply not another criminal case as the matter is now at a diplomatic level.

"It's not a simple criminality on the streets of Johannesburg, so to reduce it to that would be to bury our heads in the sand, the consequences are just too big for the country," said Wits University Lecturer in the department of international relations, Dr Mopeli Moshoeshoe.

Another expert warned that diplomatic immunity does not necessarily mean the Mugabe will be let off the hook. Constitutional law expert, Shadrack Gutto, said: "Her case will be treated like any other case."

"She can be charged but whether or not the court will hear the matter, [it will be decided] at the point where she can apply for immunity. It is up to the court to decide whether she enjoys immunity or not."

Gutto explained that even if she was on a diplomatic trip she could be summoned to come back to the country to face the charges.

"The country from where you come from must request that you go back to the country so that they can deal with the matter," he explained.

The Zimbabwe Mail reported that Mugabe was in the country for medical reasons instead of official business, meaning she may not qualify for diplomatic immunity.

Mugabe came to South Africa to have her foot examined following an accident at Harare International Airport a few weeks ago, the newspaper reported.

#HandsOffMugabe
ZanuPF has defended Mugabe and warned that there would be consequences for anyone advancing the "Grace is a Disgrace" campaign.

The party said in a statement they were aware that the first lady had been attacked by "a white girl".

The party claims that Mugabe was trying to rescue her sons who were "drugged and being abused at an unnamed hotel in South Africa".

Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe landed in South Africa on Wednesday to apparently to "bail out his wife". Mugabe was due to make a trip to South Africa to attend the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Pretoria. He arrived earlier than expected and many suspect it was to fix the diplomatic storm that had been caused by his wife.

Gerrie Nel ready to take down Mugabe
High profile prosecutor Gerrie Nel on Thursday revealed that he would be offering his services to Gabrielle Engels. In a briefing, Nel assured South Africans that justice would be served.

"Everybody is equal and no selective prosecution will happen. We hope police will do their duty, we will also support the victim, but if nothing happens we will prosecute the matter," he said.

Nel also revealed that the Engels family were approached by a third party and offered money to settle the matter out of court. The victim's mother, Debbie however rejected the offer.

"There was an amount offered but the law must settle this case, not money," Nel said at the briefing.