Dictator Robert Mugabe’s wife has arrived home as she faces accusations that she beat a model with an extension cord.
Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe arrived in Harare today and denies the assault, which is alleged to have taken place a week ago during a trip to Johannesburg.
She was able to board an Air Zimbabwe flight after securing diplomatic immunity despite security services being on red alert after 20-year-old Gabriella Engels was injured, Reuters reported.
Grace Mugabe has been allowed to return home after securing diplomatic immunity
There have been calls for Mrs Mugabe to return to South Africa after pictures emerged of Engels with a gash above her left eye and of her wearing a large bandage.
The Mugabes say Ms Engels was the wounded in a nightclub brawl.
But the model told South African paper Rapport she was beaten in a luxury hotel in Johannesburg, where the Mugabes were staying during a summit in Pretoria, when the first lady walked into a room looking for her sons.
‘She kept screaming, asking where her son was. The more we tried to explain they might be elsewhere in the hotel [but not with us], the less she wanted to believe it.
‘The next thing she hit my friend who was closest to her with the cord. She ran away and then she started hitting me.’
She says she was hit multiple times and that Mugabe hit her ‘with the sharp side of the extension cord’s plug for what seemed like forever.’
Grace Mugabe and her husband Robert Mugabe deny that she assaulted the model
Gabriella says these injuries were caused by Grace Mugabi, who is accused of attacking her in a hotel in South Africa
Protesters in Pretoria gathered to chant ‘Grace is a disgrace’ after word spread of the incident.
Yesterday the South African government said it was considering granting diplomatic immunity at the request of the Zimbabwean government, though there was no immediate comment from South African today but a security source told the Guardian that diplomatic immunity was granted.
AfriForum legal representative Willie Spies, representing Ms Engels, vowed to take the case to court after the immunity was granted.
‘We will take a long-term approach on this. ‘She may be back in Zimbabwe, but it may mean that she will find it very difficult to come back to South Africa in the future.’
The Mugabes claim that the injuries were caused in a nightclub brawl, as the first lady of Zimbabwe denies assaulting the model
Mugabe has previously faced criticism for her temper and lavish shopping habits, with her rising political profile provoking questions over whether she is maneuvering to succeed her husband.
She wants to restore a constitutional provision stating one of the party’s vice presidents should be a woman and has publicly challenged her 93-year-old husband to name a successor.
President Mugabe was expected to preside at a state funeral for a former minister in Harare today but it is not known if his wife will attend.
In the diplomatic row Zimbabwe blocked flights by South Africa’s government-owned airline on Saturday after an Air Zimbabwe flight was grounded at Johannesburg’s main international airport the previous evening.
Each country claimed the restrictions were imposed because the planes did not have a ‘foreign operator’s permit.’