HARARE – A planned demonstration by opposition political parties against South Africa’s decision to grant First Lady Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity after she reportedly assaulted a 20-year-old model is in limbo after the police told the group to first seek clearance from the South African Embassy.
The parties coalescing under the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) Youth Forum banner have since written a petition to the South African Embassy in Zimbabwe, pushing for Grace’s prosecution for assaulting Gabriella Engels.
According to Nera Youth Forum information secretary Davis Junior Mukushwa, their bid to march to the South African Embassy initially hit a brick wall after the police said the group failed to follow the legal requirements that are supposed to be met in terms of the Public Order and Security Act (Posa). This Act demands that a notification for an intended demonstration should be made seven clear days before the event, which Nera subsequently did, but was later told to get clearance first from the embassy.
“Reference is made to your letter of notification to hold a demonstration at South African Embassy situated at number 7 Elcombe Street, Belgravia Harare, where you also intend to hand over a petition.
“Your intention is drawn to the Privileges and Immunities Act, Chapter 3:03 and in particular article 22 (1) and (2). In view of the above, you are first to get a clearance letter from the embassy concerned and favour my office with a copy of that letter for further processing of your notification,” Jasper Chizemo, officer commanding Harare Central district said in response.
Mukushwa told the Daily News that no substantive response has come from the South African Embassy since they sent their petition on August 21, adding that the embassy refused to be “drawn into Zimbabwe’s political affairs”.
“They (the embassy) noted that they have no power or authority to clear our demonstration. They also said they have no response to our petition since there are talks between the South Africa government and Zimbabwe,” Mukushwa said.
According to the petition, the group wants the diplomatic immunity veil to be lifted against Grace.
“In our collective resolve as the citizens of Zimbabwe, (we) implore upon and demand from the government of the Republic of South Africa, the Department of International Relations (Dirco), The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the ministry of Police, the South African Police Services (Saps) and all such other relevant institutions in the justice delivery system of the Republic of South Africa that,
“In the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 5, Gabriella Engels receives the sufficient remedy for the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment she received from Grace Mugabe.
“Observe that the First Lady Grace Mugabe in terms of Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations did not qualify for diplomatic immunity thus should face the due legal processes of her alleged assault case.
“The South African justice delivery system rescind the diplomatic immunity that was granted to Grace Mugabe in terms of section 7(2) of the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act, 2001 (Act No. 37 of 2001),” part of the petition reads.
There was uproar after Grace was granted diplomatic immunity, with civil society groups and opposition political parties pressuring the South African government to prosecute her on the allegations.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) in South Africa has since launched a Constitutional Court battle seeking the decision by the minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to grant Grace diplomatic immunity to be declared unconstitutional and invalid.