FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe remained in a sticky wicket yesterday as South African President Jacob Zuma’s government vascillated, while African National Congress (ANC) presidential aspirant Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma said President Robert Mugabe’s wife must face the music.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Grace is facing prosecution for what the authorities in the neighbouring country said was a reported case of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm reported by 20-year-old South African model Gabriella Engels.
Engels claims she was savagely battered by Grace after Mugabe’s wife stormed a plush hotel in which the model and the First Family’s sons, Robert Jnr and Chatunga Bellarmine, were partying.
Grace has invoked diplomatic immunity, with Mugabe’s government claiming she is in that country as part of the Zanu PF leader’s delegation to the Sadc summit currently underway.
But South Africa’s International Relations ministry deputy director-general Clayson Monyela was edgy when contacted for comment yesterday and could only say the issue was still under consideration.
“No decision has been made yet. I have no idea when the decision will be made. The matter is still under consideration,” Monyela told NewsDay Weekender early yesterday.
But South African media reported that Zuma’s government was looking at ways of “allowing Grace to return to Zimbabwe without being charged” for fear of jeopardising relations with Mugabe, who only last week declared he would continue supporting the beleaguered South African leader who is facing growing calls to step down.
Monyela early this week said Grace could not be granted immunity because she was not in that country on government business.
“The lady [Grace Mugabe] is appearing in court. The only way that can happen is if she was arrested or turned herself in. This wouldn’t have happened if she had diplomatic immunity,” he reportedly said.
“In my case, when I travel on business, I use my diplomatic passport. But when I go on holiday, I have to use my private passport. I am not allowed to use my diplomatic passport.”
Mugabe last week told a rally in Gwanda that Grace was in neighbouring South Africa for medical attention after a freak accident involving the 93-year-old leader’s motorcade on his return from Singapore three weeks ago.
Dhlamini-Zuma, who is bidding to succeed her ex-husband at the ANC December elective conference this year, literally threw Grace to the wolves.
“Whether one beats another . . . it is wrong and the law must take its course . . . but women are capable . . . they cannot be judged on that,” she said.
Authorities in South Africa said Grace initially offered to hand herself over to police before making an eleventh hour volte-face.
Mugabe, who is currently in the neighbouring country, then weighed in with a diplomatic note verbale to protect his wife from imminent arrest.
Grace is said to have offered her victim, who suffered a deep gush on the forehead among other injuries, money through “third parties”.
But the offer was rejected, with Engels demanding that Mugabe’s wife faces justice.
South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party yesterday demanded that Grace hands over her passports as a sign of goodwill or commitment to face the law.
According to the media in South Africa, DA shadow police minister Zakhele
Mbhele said: “We believe this is a prudence risk mitigation measure, given that she is a flight risk. And we’ve already had one instance of non-co-operation with the police when she failed to appear before the court as she was meant to do earlier on this week.”