As expected, lawyers representing Gabriella Engels, the South African model, who alleged that she was assaulted by Mrs. Grace Mugabe, the First Lady of Zimbabwe, have made an application in court, challenging the decision of the South African government to grant diplomatic immunity on Grace Mugabe. The application was officially filed in the high court in Pretoria by the AfriForum group, on behalf of Ms. Engels.
In her submission, AfriForum argues, on behalf of Ms. Engels, that the immunity granted on the Zimbabwe’s First Lady is illegal and unconstitutional because the Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who granted the immunity, did, in fact, misinterpret the law under which the immunity was granted. The immunity, according to the submission, does not cover people who caused death or injury to a South African.
Ms. Engels has alleged that Mrs. Mugabe attacked and hit her with an extension cord in a hotel room near Johannesburg because the First Lady believed Ms. Engels knew the whereabouts of her son, Bellarmine, despite that she, according to Ms. Engels, repeatedly assured Mrs. Mugabe otherwise. According to the South African police, Mrs. Mugabe had refused to honour the police invitation to appear at the police station to answer questions regarding the allegations. Subsequently, the Zimbabwe’s First Lady left the country with her husband, President Mugabe, despite that the South African police had issued a “red alert” at the country’s borders for the 52 – year-old First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Rumours have it that Mrs. Mugabe offered an unspecific amount of money to the family of her alleged victim, but the offer was refused. So far, Mrs. Mugabe is yet to comment on the controversies.
The big questions are: Will Ms. Engels’ lawyers win the immunity challenge? If they do, will the successful challenge close the door for any future visit to South Africa by the First Lady of Zimbabwe? The stake cannot be higher.