HARARE – South Africa’s Police minister Fikile Mbalula has said his law enforcement agency were ready to arrest Zimbabwe First Lady Grace Mugabe when she assaulted model Gabriella Engels in August but backtracked after government invoked diplomatic immunity.
South Africa granted diplomatic immunity to Grace on August 18, allowing her to return to Harare and avoid prosecution for the alleged assault of the 20-year-old model
Mbalula told the Sunday Times that while he was waiting for the courts to make a determination on the matter, the issue of Grace’s immunity was debatable.
Grace was facing “serious charges” of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm after she assaulted Engels at a Sandton hotel in August.
Mugabe allegedly assaulted Engels with an electric cord in the face and head after reportedly storming into the room to find the model and her two sons Bellarmine and Robert Jnr with her.
Engels is being represented by Gerrie Nel, the legal expert who secured Paralympian Oscar Pistorius’s murder conviction.
“Mugabe’s case was one of a mother guarding her children jealously, of kids going awol and behaving like brats.
“There was also the issue of indemnity, which I think is debatable. The courts will decide. But my police were ready to arrest her,” Mbalula said.
Mugabe’s escape from justice, however, sparked outrage from South Africa’s workers union Cosatu which demanded that she be banned from ever returning to the country.
In a statement, Cosatu national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said South Africa was slowly turning into a Banana republic as their cowardice and surrender was shameful.
“This makes a mockery of our rule of law and the principle of equality before the law. It is clear now that the citizens of this country cannot be guaranteed protection by this government.
“This ill-thought decision is proof that our so-called exceptionalism is an amount of scale, not of quality anymore.
“While we agree that government has every right to maintain healthy relations with our neighbouring countries, this should not be done at the expense of South African citizens. We cannot allow the political anarchy and vandalism of the Mugabe-led administration in Zimbabwe to be imported into our country,” fumed Pamla.
South Africa’s Democratic Alliance approached the Constitutional Court seeking a reversal of Mugabe’s diplomatic immunity.
The DA argued in its urgent application that the decision in granting immunity, was “hasty, embarrassing and above all illegal and unconstitutional”.
“It is frankly unconscionable that after the scathing ruling by the Constitutional Court in the Al Bashir matter that the ANC-led government would once again let a high-profile person escape justice in South Africa,” the court papers said.