Decision to grant Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity set aside by high court

Head of AfriForum’s private prosecution unit Advocate Gerrie Nel and Gabriella Engels who opened assault charges against Grace Mugabe in 2017 is seen in the Pretoria High Court during the proceedings 10 May 2018 Pretoria

Grace Mugabe could stand trial for assault after immunity revoked

FORMER First Lady Grace Mugabe's world crumbled yesterday after a South African High Court judge ruled that the decision by the country's former International Relations and Co-operation minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to grant her diplomatic immunity was "inconsistent with the country's Constitution".

The wife of former president Robert Mugabe was accused of assaulting South African model Gabriella Engels at a Johannesburg hotel‚ where Mugabe's two sons were staying.

Vally said, after considering the contents of the minister's answering affidavit, there was no doubt that "she came to the conclusion that it was in the national interests of South Africa that Dr Mugabe be clothed with the immunity".

Even though Mugabe is not a state official‚ she "should not receive protection from the state in Zimbabwe"‚ he said.

Her husband, Robert Mugabe, was president of Zimbabwe at the time.

Richard Chemaly, a legal strategist, said the judgment removes the procedural barrier that is immunity from the equation, but doesn't compel the NPA to reinstate charges against Mugabe. "We are happy with the fact that she will be able to give her side of the story and let the law take its course", Kriel added.

Model Gabriella Engels, the woman behind the assault allegation, last August filed a court application challenging the government's decision.

"We have actually not seen the docket in this case, so we have no way of knowing what the evidence (against Grace Mugabe) actually is", NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane told Business Day.

The DA's federal council chairperson James Selfe also attended the judgment.

The International Relations Department said it notes the judgment and will comment at a later stage after studying it. Spies said if the NPA failed to take action, Afriforum would start proceedings against Grace Mugabe.

"The South African government chose to put the politics of expediency above the rule of law".

Heads of state who killed or injured people in South Africa did not qualify for immunity under the Foreign States Immunities Act and there was therefore no way that their spouses qualified for it, Ms Engels said.

The DA says it expects the government to work with all relevant authorities to ensure that Mugabe is returned to South Africa and has her day in court.

Latest News