The First Lady of Zimbabwe, Grace Mugabe is wanted in South Africa over an “attack“ on a woman. The South African police have issued a “red alert” at the country’s borders for Zimbabwe’s 52 ““ year-old First Lady Grace Mugabe, who is believed to still be in South Africa, although her whereabouts are unknown. The “red alert” followed Mrs. Mugabe`s failure to appear in the court on Tuesday to answer questions regarding her alleged assault on a 20-year-old woman, Gabriella Engels, who claimed that Mrs. Mugabe had hit her with an extension cord in a hotel room near Johannesburg.
Narrating her story, Ms. Engels said she was attacked by Mrs. Mugabe, who believed she knew the whereabouts of her son, Bellarmine, despite that she repeatedly assured Mrs. Mugabe otherwise.
“We kept telling her ‘we do not know where he is… we haven’t seen him for the night’… She cornered me“¦ and started beating the hell out of me.
“That’s when she hit me with the plug and the extension cord. And I just remember being curled down on the floor with blood rushing down my face and down my neck.
“She hit us with so much hate.” Gabriella Engels narrated.
In what could be a serious diplomatic nightmare for the South African government, the government in Pretoria, is faced with the challenges of forcing Grace Mugabe to appear in the court or risk the wrath of many South African lawyers, who have repeatedly accused President Zuma`s government of making a mockery of the rule of law. It does not help that South Africa is one of the closest countries to Zimbabwe; even in the wake of the alleged human right abuses and election intimidations by the Mugabe government, the government of South Africa had staunchly supported President Mugabe. However, since the South African government neglected to execute an international arrest warrant in 2015, against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, many legal experts ““ especially, South Africans – have viewed the South African government with disrespect. Despite the international arrest warrant against President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, the President Zuma`s government refused to arrest him when he visited South Africa in 2015. Instead, the South African government insisted that President Omar al-Bashir had a diplomatic immunity, as such, he should not be arrested. However, the country’s judges disagreed with the government stand. Now that the government of Zimbabwe had sought diplomatic immunity for Mrs. Grace Mugabe, the South African government is absolutely put in a tight corner. So far, the government of South Africa seems to be displaying some tough rhetoric in the Grace Mugabe`s case.
“We, in terms of South African police, [have] already put tabs on the borders in relation to her leaving the country, so there is no question about that. So tabs have been put, a red alert has been put, so she is not somebody who has been running away.” Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said.
But Mrs. Mugabe has, in fact, much more to worry about than the rattling of the South African government officials. The victim, Ms. Engels has hired a prominent, combatant, no-nonsense South African lawyer Gerrie Nel to represent her. It is on record that Gerrie Nel, successfully prosecuted Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympic athlete, who was accused of shooting his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Worse still, the Afriforum group, which mainly lobbies for the rights of Afrikaners in South Africa has insisted that they would hire a private prosecution if the South African police did not do their investigations to the public satisfaction. Incidentally, Gerrie Nel equally works for the Afriforum, which has also vowed to fight against any diplomatic immunity to Grace Mugabe. This makes the case a hard nut to crack. Definitely, don`t rule out that the case might take some racial dimensions.
When asked what punishment she wanted for the First Lady of Zimbabwe, Gabriella Engels responded: “go to jail”.
That might sound unrealistic in South Africa, judging the position of Mrs. Mugabe and the relationship between the Zimbabwean and South African governments. However, having in mind that the South African government is afraid of a public backlash, especially after the President Bashir incident and with the legal juggernaut Gerrie Nel on the victim`s side, coupled with the pressure from the Afriforum to have Mrs. Mugabe punished, the complexity of the case cannot be underestimated.
Obviously, the South African government is, in fact, trying to avoid any messy legal scene. It is rumoured that the government is trying to persuade Mrs. Mugabe to appear in the court, plead guilty and pay a fine. However, knowing President Mugabe`s stubbornness and fearlessness in the face of challenges, amongst them, from the Whites, some have doubts that President Mugabe would accept such an offer from the South African government. To complicate matters, the Zimbabwean government has claimed that their First Lady, Mrs. Grace Mugabe was, in fact, attacked by Gabriella Engels. Can the case be more controversial?
With two uncompromising Titans ““ President Mugabe and Gerrie Nel ““ pitched against each other in a legal – and diplomatic? ““ battle, anyone who expects this case to be resolved easily and amicably might be chewing the seed of ignorance indeed.