South Africa issues arrest warrant for Zimbabwe’s Grace Mugabe over alleged assault
Grace Mugabe had been positioning herself as a successor to her ageing husband (Reuters: Philimon Bulawayo)
South Africa has issued an arrest warrant for Zimbabwe’s former first lady Grace Mugabe over an alleged assault in an upmarket area of Johannesburg last year.
- Grace Mugabe was seen as a potential successor to her husband at the time of the incident
- She has retreated from public view since he was ousted in a November 2017 coup
- Her diplomatic immunity for the alleged assault has now been overturned
Mrs Mugabe is accused of assaulting a model with an electric cable at a luxury hotel in Johannesburg’s Sandton district after the young woman went to visit Ms Mugabe’s sons.
After the alleged assault came to light in August 2017, the South African Government granted Mrs Mugabe diplomatic immunity, allowing her to leave the country and avoid prosecution.
However that immunity was overturned by a South African court this year after the alleged victim, Gabriella Engels, challenged the decision.
Gabriella Engels has pushed for Mrs Mugabe to face prosecution over the alleged attack. (Reuters: Siphiwe Sibeko)
“I can confirm that a warrant for the arrest of Grace Mugabe was issued last Thursday,” South African Police Service spokesman Vishnu Naidoo said, adding that police were seeking Interpol’s help to enforce the warrant.
There was no immediate comment from Mrs Mugabe or from authorities in Harare.
At the time of the incident Mrs Mugabe was seen as a potential successor to her 94-year-old husband Robert, a dictator who ruled Zimbabwe from 1980 until he was ousted in a coup just months later.
She has denied assaulting Ms Engels with an electric cable, saying an “intoxicated and unhinged” Ms Engels attacked her with a knife after the model had gone to see the Mugabes’ sons at the hotel.
South African advocacy group Afriforum, which represented Ms Engels, has dismissed Mrs Mugabe’s denial as a lie.
The incident created an awkward diplomatic situation for the two countries and provoked a public backlash in South Africa, where many online commenters spoke out against the decision to grant immunity.
Mrs Mugabe has retreated from the limelight in Zimbabwe since her husband was ousted in the November 2017 coup.