A SOUTH AFRICAN court has issued a warrant of arrest for former President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace, over the alleged assault of a model at a Johannesburg hotel, but a Zimbabwe government official said it was unlikely to honour any extradition request.
Grace is accused of assaulting South African model Gabriella Engels with an electric cable in August last year at a luxury hotel where the latter was partying with Mugabe’s two sons, Chatunga Bellermine and Robert (Jr). Engels, who was 20 at the time, was left with a deep gush on her forehead.
The South African government granted her diplomatic immunity, which was overturned by that country’s High Court in July this year after Engels appealed the decision. At the time of the assault, Grace’s husband Robert was President in Zimbabwe, while Jacob Zuma was South Africa’s leader.
Mugabe was deposed in a coup in November last year and replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, while Zuma was recalled by the ruling ANC party and replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa.
According to human rights lobby group AfriForum, the South African National Prosecution Authority was granted the arrest warrant by the country’s High Court and now the pressure is on for action to be taken.
AfriForum’s Willie Spies told NewsDay that the lobby group would now push for “justice to be served.”
“We have been advised that the National Prosecuting Authority has been granted a warrant of arrest against Mrs Mugabe. It was important for justice and we are happy,” said Spies.
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“For it means the wheels of justice are sometimes slow, but in other instances, they are quick. Mrs Mugabe must now be brought before a court to make sure her victim (Engels) receives justice.”
Spies said as far as AfriForum was concerned, Zimbabwe has an extradition treaty with South Africa.
South African police also said they were seeking Interpol help in enforcing the warrant.
“The police investigated and we made an application to the courts, and the courts granted a warrant for the arrest… for the assault of Gabriella Engels,” Police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo told journalists in that country.
Naidoo said the Randburg Court in Gauteng issued the warrant of arrest on December 13, charging Grace with “assault, causing grievous bodily harm”.
“We are following the Interpol (International Criminal Police) processes, so we are applying for assistance to secure her arrest,” Naidoo added.
The entrance of Interpol into the matrix means every country that is a member of the international police body, including Zimbabwe, has an obligation to hand her over for trial. Zimbabwe also hosts the regional headquarters for Interpol in Harare.
Harare lawyer Wilson Manase, who has represented Grace before, said he was in London and had no instructions to represent the former First Lady in her South African legal problems.
“No. I am not representing her in this case. I do not have instructions in that respect. It is likely that she has legal representation in South Africa,” Manase said.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa declined to comment on the matter during a Cabinet briefing yesterday.
“We were only answering questions related to the deliberations in Cabinet yesterday (Tuesday). Any other questions will be answered in other fora,” Mutsvangwa said.
But her deputy, Energy Mutodi, told NewsDay that his understanding was that the alleged crime was committed, while Grace was on a diplomatic visit to South Africa “So we believe she enjoys the diplomatic immunity accorded to diplomats. We will not smile on any attempt to embarrass, ill-treat or diminish the image of former President Robert Mugabe or his immediate family members,” he said.
“An attack on Grace Mugabe is an attack on the former President. President Mugabe is our founding father and liberation icon and his misery is undesirable to us.” He also told Reuters that Zimbabwe would not extradite Grace to South Africa as this would constitute “harassment”.
Grace, who was once considered a frontrunner to succeed her husband before the November coup, has retreated from public life since Mnangagwa took over.