FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe yesterday reportedly evaded arrest in dramatic style in South Africa following her violent attack on a model who she had found partying at an upmarket hotel with her two sons, Robert Jr and Chatunga Bellarmine, NewsDay has learnt.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
The First Lady was expected to appear at Wynburg Magistrates’ Courts in the afternoon, but had not done so by the time of going to print last night amid speculative reports that she had flown back to Zimbabwe in a private plane. Authorities in Zimbabwe and South Africa were yesterday scrambling for answers after Grace’s victim.
Gabriella Engels (20), whose pictures showed a deep gush on her forehead among other injuries, opened a case of assault against President Robert Mugabe’s wife.
South African Police minister Fikile Mbalula said the authorities had acted in the interests of the victim.
“The law is about ensuring that everyone is protected and in terms of foreign citizens they should understand their responsibility, especially those that hold a diplomatic passport that you can’t just go to Zimbabwe and beat people and the matter will disappear,” Mbalula said.
“Grace Mugabe will appear at the Wynburg Magistrate’s Courts this afternoon (yesterday).”
However, by late yesterday there was confusion over Grace’s whereabouts.
South African Police spokesperson, Vishnu Naidoo said: “We have identified a possible suspect who in terms of our law we cannot name, but she hasn’t handed herself over yet. We do not know her whereabouts at this stage.”
Naidoo added Mbalula learnt later that he was wrong.
“The minister learnt later that it (turning self in) did not happen as it was supposed to,” the police spokesperson said.
Unconfirmed reports claimed Grace had landed in Harare after sneaking out of South Africa late yesterday.
Presidential spokesperson, George Charamba and Information minister Christopher Mushohwe unreachable for comment.
While authorities in Zimbabwe remained mum, Zanu PF South Africa spokesperson, Kennedy Mandaza condemned Grace’s disgraceful behaviour.
“It is regrettable that such an incident would happen. We do not, as a party, condone any of the things that happened, particularly when we hear the extent of the damage that happened to the girl in question, especially given that it is Women’s Month. We think such an incident should not have happened at all,” Mandaza told a South African television channel.
Grace reportedly stormed her sons’ hotel room in Sandton, Johannesburg, on Sunday and assaulted the complainant, a South African model, with an electric cord in the face and head.
Yesterday, Mbalula told a local radio station that Grace was liable to prosecution, as she was not covered by diplomatic immunity because she was not a government official nor on government business.
“Arresting a person of her stature … she can be arrested. If she came here with her diplomatic passport, she’ll have diplomatic immunity,” Mbalula said.
South Africa’s International Relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela also added that the First Lady needed to have been in that country on official business to enjoy immunity.
“She needs to be here on official business. It won’t apply if she’s here on holiday or for something else. Secondly‚ as a First Lady‚ she’s not part of government or a government official. It doesn’t apply just because she’s the wife of a President‚” Monyela said.
African National Congress secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe weighed in: “We are glad the First Lady of Zimbabwe is appearing in court for doing what should not be done by a First Lady.”
Grace has been in South Africa for about two weeks attending to her two way-ward children, who have taken to drinking binges as well as reports of drugs and women abuse according to reports.
The First Lady has also been reportedly seeking medical attention to her leg after a freak accident involving Mugabe’s official motorcade.
Gauteng Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane on Monday, condemned Grace’s conduct demanding that she hands herself over to police.
“I am deeply appalled and devastated by the allegations of assault on a young woman by Grace Mugabe. No one has a right to abuse women irrespective of situations they find themselves in,” Nkosi-Malobane said.
Opposition MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu condemned Grace’s “intolerant and crude behaviour”, warning this could compromise the security of Zimbabweans in South Africa.
“Grace Mugabe is used to bullying and humiliating people here in Zimbabwe and now she has decided to export her violent streak to South Africa,” Gutu said.
“She is a disgraceful woman. Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora in South Africa will be targeted for victimisation largely because of this. Grace should be held personally to blame if and when Zimbabweans in the South African Diaspora are harassed as a result of her thuggish and uncouth behaviour.”
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson, Jacob Mafume said the President would pay the price for his “bad choice”.
“It is conduct unbecoming of a First Lady and a mother, it would appear that Mugabe is facing the impact of the saying by a Greek philosopher that if you are to marry by all means marry well, but should you not do not worry you will become a philosopher,” Mafume said.
“Well, at least it shows South Africa what Zimbabweans are running away from. Mugabe and his wife have built a country where even their own children cannot live in. Grace is taking Mugabe’s name down the gutter.”