The South African government has moved to dispel media reports that it was set to grant immunity to embattled First Lady of Zimbabwe, Grace Mugabe.
Wife of the Zimbabwean leader is at the center of an assault allegation levelled by a 20-year-old model, Gabrielle Engels, who was allegedly whipped and injured by Mrs. Mugabe.
Reuters news agency on Friday morning cited a government source as confirming that Grace Mugabe will be granted diplomatic immunity to allow her return home.
What is likely to happen is that she will be allowed to go back home, and then we announce that we've granted diplomatic immunity and wait for somebody to challenge us.
“There would obviously be implications for our relations with Zimbabwe. Sadly the other countries in the region are watching us and how we are going to act,” the anonymous source is quoted to have said.
“What is likely to happen is that she will be allowed to go back home, and then we announce that we’ve granted diplomatic immunity and wait for somebody to challenge us,” he added.
Rights group Afriforum, which is advising Engels, said it would be illegal for Pretoria to give Mugabe immunity and branded the plans a “disgrace”. They have further hinted of hauling the government before court if Mrs. Mugabe is allowed to leave.
The Ministry of Police on Thursday confirmed that a “red alert” had been placed at all border posts in respect of the 52-year-old accused.
The incident of Sunday evening has locked up Mugabe in South Africa after she failed to appear in court for a hearing. She was in the country for medical attention, a basis on which most legal experts aver that she does not qualify for immunity and is thus liable for prosecution.
Engels said she was assaulted by Mugabe on Sunday evening as she waited with two friends in a luxury Johannesburg hotel suite to meet one of Mugabe’s adult sons.