HomeNewsGrace chickens out of SA trip

Grace chickens out of SA trip

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FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe on Monday failed to travel to South Africa with President Robert Mugabe for the Bi-National Commission amid claims she is now feeling the heat after her alleged hotel brawl with 20-year-old model, Gabriella Engels, in August this year.

BY OBEY MANAYITI/RICHARD CHIDZA

Reports in South Africa indicated that pressure groups were weighing the possibility of embarrassing her through protests and legal challenges.

And to the intrigue ahead of the meeting, Mugabe has recently been pouring scorn on South Africa over various policies, which he felt promoted white capital at the expense of the black community, raising the ire of African National Congress secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, who responded strongly to the rebuke.

South Africa-based political analyst Dewa Mavhinga said pressure groups had mobilised against Grace.

“Although the government of South Africa granted Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity, the general feeling is that she is a fugitive from justice who faced arrest if she had accompanied her husband to South Africa.

“Many believe she must have her day in court over the alleged beating of a young South African woman.

“A number of pressure groups in South Africa, including AfriForum, would have pushed for Grace Mugabe’s arrest had she travelled to South Africa and, therefore, her conspicuous absence means she saw that real possibility of trouble on South African soil and so she decided to stay away,” he said, adding the risk of embarrassment was big.

Mavhinga said their protest was about rule of law and due process.

“This means pressure groups would most likely have succeeded in securing Grace’s arrest and court appearance and then leave it to the courts to decide on the legal issues relating to diplomatic immunity and to the case of the alleged assault,” he said.

MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said Grace was a fugitive from justice.

“South Africa is no longer a safe destination for Grace until and unless she resolves her legal issues in that country,” Gutu, a lawyer, said.

“She knows that the diplomatic immunity that she was granted recently in South Africa is very porous and tenuous.”

Jacob Mafume, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson, concurred: “Remember, Grace left that country in the dead of night and before the South African government pronounced diplomatic immunity.

“The South African Minister of Police (Fikile Mbalula) professed ignorance over her escape and there is every chance that the jaws of justice might clamp on her if she sets foot in that country.

“Grace effectively fled from justice.”

However, Information minister Chris Mushohwe said Grace had other commitments in the country, describing the claims that she deliberately avoided travelling as malicious.

“Does he (Mugabe) have to be accompanied by the First Lady all the time? Is it mandatory that she should always accompany him? Does she always accompany the President wherever he goes?

“It’s like asking, for example, that why are you going to China without your wife. What does that mean?” he queried rhetorically.

“If you have a programme together, you will go together, but if she has other commitments, she doesn’t have to go.

“It’s government business after all and she is not a government official.

“She mustn’t have to be with him everywhere and she hasn’t been doing that. If she travels, the President doesn’t have to be with her all the time.”

Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo weighed in, saying there was nothing amiss in Mugabe going alone.

He said Grace was granted diplomatic immunity and there was no way she could face prosecution.

In his speech yesterday, South African President Jacob Zuma said his country held Mugabe in high regard for his contribution to Zimbabwe’s freedom.

Zuma said the two governments were pursuing different areas that promote political, economic and social co-operation between the two nations.

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