Grace Mugabe's diplomatic immunity over assault ditched by court

Saul Bowman
July 31, 2018

Grace Mugabe, wife of the deposed Zimbabwean dictator, has been stripped of the diplomatic immunity she was granted over an alleged attack on a nightclub hostess in Johannesburg previous year.

The ball is now in the National Prosecuting Authority's (NPA) court on whether former Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe would face criminal charges if she were to set foot in SA again - but neither they, nor the department of International Relations (Dirco) could be drawn to comment yesterday.

In delivering his 33-page judgment, Judge Vally found the minister's decision to be inconsistent with the constitution and ordered it be reviewed and set aside.

Mugabe was given immunity from prosecution by officials after she was alleged to have become angry and beaten model Gabriella Engels‚ who had been with her sons in a luxury Johannesburg hotel.

Mugabe denied assaulting Engels with an electric cable, saying an "intoxicated and unhinged" Engels had attacked her with a knife.

In his judgment in Monday, Judge Bashier Vally said even former president Robert Mugabe would not have been immune from prosecution in terms of the Foreign States Immunity Act.

The International Relations Department claimed that it did not grant the immunity, but rather recognised it under international law. "She simply got away because of political reasons".

"The Mugabes have a house in Sandton that's worth more than R40million".

"We have actually not seen the docket in this case, so we have no way of knowing what the evidence (against Grace Mugabe) actually is", NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane told Business Day.

The South African Police Service (Saps) investigated the alleged assault, but declined to prosecute after then-Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane granted Mrs Mugabe diplomatic immunity.

The DA's James Selfe said the ruling is a victory for the rule of law and victims of violence against women. "Due processes will follow", Naidoo said. Spies said if the NPA failed to take action, Afriforum would start proceedings against Grace Mugabe.

"Nobody is above the law in South Africa", he added.

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