S.Africa issues arrest warrant for Grace Mugabe over model assault

Zimbabwe's former First Lady Grace Mugabe. PHOTO | JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Grace Mugabe reportedly attacked Gabrielle Engels using an electrical extension cord at an upmarket hotel in the business district of Sandton where the Mugabes' two sons were staying.
  • Engels, now 21, suffered cuts to her forehead and the back of her head.
  • A court scrapped Mrs Mugabe's immunity in July, labelling the decision by the foreign ministry as "inconsistent with the constitution".

JOHANNESBURG,

South African police said Wednesday that an arrest warrant had been issued for Grace Mugabe, wife of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, after she allegedly assaulted a model in Johannesburg in 2017.

The 53-year-old reportedly attacked Gabrielle Engels using an electrical extension cord at an upmarket hotel in the business district of Sandton where the Mugabes' two sons were staying.

ASSAULT CHARGE

"The police investigated and we made an application to the courts and the courts granted a warrant for the arrest," police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo told AFP.

The Randburg Magistrates Court in Gauteng province issued the warrant of arrest on December 13, charging Mrs Mugabe 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," Mr Naidoo added.

Ms Engels, now 21, suffered cuts to her forehead and the back of her head.

IMMUNITY

At the time, the government granted Mrs Mugabe diplomatic immunity, allowing her to leave South Africa.

A court scrapped the immunity in July, labelling the decision by the foreign ministry as "inconsistent with the constitution".

Lobby group AfriForum, which has been pursuing the case on Ms Engel's behalf, welcomed the arrest warrant.

"AfriForum first had to approach the court to have Mrs Mugabe's diplomatic immunity set aside, which paved the way for the police to investigate and it has now reached a point where an arrest can be made," AfriForum director Kallie Kriel said.

Robert Mugabe, 94, was ousted as president in November 2017 after a brief military takeover when generals stepped in to ensure that his wife was not in line to succeed him.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, his former deputy, recently revealed Mr Mugabe had been in Singapore for medical care and was now unable to walk because of ill health and old age.

QUICK DEPARTURE

After the alleged assault, Grace Mugabe hurriedly flew out of South Africa, accompanied by her husband who was visiting for a regional summit.

Mrs Mugabe -- who is 41 years younger than her husband -- fled despite South African police vowing to prevent her from leaving.

At the time, their two sons Robert Jnr and Chatunga were living in Sandton, where they had a reputation for partying.

"We were chilling in a hotel room, and (they) were in the room next door. She came in and started hitting us," Ms Engels told local media last year.

In 2009, Mrs Mugabe was reportedly granted immunity in Hong Kong after punching a British photographer for taking pictures of her at a luxury hotel.

She was a regular visitor to South Africa, and earned the sobriquet "Gucci Grace" for her lavish lifestyle and extravagant shopping as Zimbabwe's economy collapsed under her husband's authoritarian rule.

The couple, who also have a daughter together, have been living in virtual seclusion since his fall from power in November last year, after 37 years in office.

They appeared in public on July 30 when they voted together in the country's first elections since his ousting.

Zimbabwean authorities were not immediately available for comment on the arrest warrant.

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