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Grace Mugabe back in Zimbabwe after refusing to face assault charges in S. Africa

Zimbabwe's first lady returned home after failing to turn herself in to police in South Africa. She is accused of assaulting a young model with an electrical cable in a Johannesburg hotel where her sons were staying.

Grace Mugabe, the wife of Zimbabwean ruler Robert Mugabe, came close to being arrested in South Africa, but managed to escape.

Zimbabwe government sources confirmed to Reuters news agency that she had returned home.

"Yes, she is back in the country. We don't know where this issue of assault charges is coming from," said a senior government official, who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the press.

A second official also confirmed that Grace Mugabe had returned, saying "she is around now" and accused the media of a plot to tarnish the first family's name.

Earlier, police in South Africa said they were negotiating with the 52-year-old's legal team to get her to hand herself in over assault allegations.

Alleged assault with an electrical cord

Police allege she assaulted 20-year-old model Gabriella Engels in a Johannesburg hotel at the weekend. She allegedly beat the model with an electrical extension cord leaving the woman with injuries to her head.

Local media said Engels had been visiting the Mugabes' sons Robert and Chatunga at the hotel in the exclusive Sandton district. Mugabe allegedly arrived with bodyguards and accused Engels of partying with the pair.

"We were chilling in a hotel room, and (the sons) were in the room next door. She came in and started hitting us," Engels said.

The model posted an image of the alleged assault on Twitter.

"The negotiations for her to hand herself in are still going on. We are at a point where we cannot effect an arrest yet," a senior police source told news agency Reuters.

South African police minister Fikile Mbalula had earlier said that Mugabe had handed herself in to police and would appear in court.

The police national spokesman told news agency AFP that the whereabouts of the first lady was unknown.

The alleged assault has caused a diplomatic row between the two neighboring countries.

The first lady has become increasingly active in Zimbabwe's public life and in 2014 became the head of the ruling party's women's wing.

Read more: Mugabe celebrates 93rd birthday, praises Trump

She regularly attends political rallies across the country, railing against anyone alleged to be disloyal to the president.

ap/jm (Reuters, AFP)

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