Zimbabwean embassy seeks to join Grace Mugabe case

19 September 2017 - 17:43 By Nico Gous
Grace Mugabe. File photo.
Grace Mugabe. File photo.
Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

The Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria entered the fray on Tuesday in the case between Zimbabwe’s First Lady‚ Grace Mugabe‚ and the model she allegedly assaulted.

Civil rights group AfriForum‚ acting on behalf of Gabriella Engels‚ brought an application at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday to add Mugabe as a respondent to the case.

This is because Mugabe does not live in South Africa.

AfriForum want the court to review the decision by the South African government to grant diplomatic immunity to Mugabe. They also want the court to declare that the decision to grant Mugabe immunity does not mean she will not be prosecuted.

Adv Simba Chitando‚ representing the Zimbabwean embassy‚ opposed the application and said they want to join the case as an intervening party.

The question of the Zimbabwean embassy’s legal authority (locus standi) was central to Tuesday’s proceedings.

Chitando wanted to know why AfriForum want to serve a notice of their application to the Presidency.

Adv Etienne Labuschagne SC‚ representing AfriForum‚ said the Presidency is where the president‚ including Grace‚ lives and is not the office of the Presidency where Mugabe works. He added this is the best place to ensure Grace receives the notice.

“We are not dealing with someone who needs to be traced.”

Chitando said if they want to serve the notice to the president‚ it does not matter if they do at the Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria or in Harare.

Chitando said AfriForum did not follow the legal procedure to serve a notice abroad and they should have first established Grace’s address.

Labuschagne argued this did not show the Zimbabwean embassy has locus standi‚ but that their arguments were as an amicus curiae (friend of the court).

Engels has accused Mugabe of assaulting her and two friends at the Capital West 20 Hotel in Sandton‚ Johannesburg‚ on August 13.

In her founding affidavit‚ Engels details how she and her friends visited "acquaintances"‚ when Grace burst in with her bodyguards. Engels and her friends were visiting Mugabe's sons‚ Chatunga and Robert jnr.

Engels alleges Mugabe hit her with an electric cord with a plug at the end over her forehead. She said in her affidavit the hit caused “a gash which has serious repercussions for my appearance and my professional career as a model”.

She also had bruising on her thighs.

Mugabe in a statement denied assaulting Engels‚ saying an "intoxicated and unhinged" Engels had attacked her with a knife.

Mugabe said she had intervened on behalf of her sons who were "in trouble with a drunken young woman".

Gabriella and her mother‚ Debbie‚ were at court alongside AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel.

Debbie said Mugabe’s claims are "utter lies".

"She is going to have to prove that in court … How can my daughter attack her with a knife when she’s got so many bodyguards?"

Judgment was reserved.

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