Grace Mugabe's diplomatic immunity over assault ditched by 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

They asked the court to nullify government's decision to grant Mugabe diplomatic immunity after she assaulted model Gabriella Engels at a hotel in August past year.

The South African Police Service (Saps) investigated the alleged assault, but declined to prosecute after then-Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane granted Mrs Mugabe diplomatic immunity.

Grace was granted diplomatic immunity by South Africa's former Minister of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) Maite Nkoana-Mashabane following her alleged assault of South African model Gabriella Engels in Johannesburg a year ago.

But the state granted Mugabe immunity‚ saying it was imperative to maintain good intergovernmental relations within the region‚ and in particular‚ between South Africa and Zimbabwe. The court ruled that the decision had been inconsistent with provisions in the constitution.

"It is declared that the decision of the minister of August 19, 2017, in terms of the diplomatic immunities to recognise Dr Grace Mugabe immunities is inconsistence with the Constitution of South Africa".

Rights group AfriForum and the DA went to court challenging the original decision by the government department.




The legal agency that represented Engels, Afriforum, said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) should now seek Mugabe's extradition from Zimbabwe to South Africa.

The alleged assault took place about three months before the military takeover in Zimbabwe which saw Robert Mugabe resign as president after 37 years in power.

"From the start we said the diplomatic immunity that was given to Mrs Mugabe was unlawful".

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

"In just the same way the South African government did in the [Omar] al-Bashir matter, the South African government chose to put the politics of expediency above the rule of law", Selfe said.

Previously, AfriForum said various other institutions had brought similar applications and would join the proceedings as friends of the court.

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