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Grace Mugabe wanted in South Africa

December 19, 2018

The former first lady of Zimbabwe is facing an arrest warrant in South Africa for a reported assault. She is accused of whipping a model with an electrical cord at a lavish hotel.

Zimbabwe's Grace Mugabe sits with her hands crossed at a Zanu PF rally
Image: Getty Images/AFP/Z. Auntony

South African police have issued an arrest warrant for Grace Mugabe, the wife of Zimbabwe's former leader Robert Mugabe, following accusations of an assault on a model in South Africa last year, it was revealed on Wednesday.

Grace Mugabe is accused of whipping Gabriella Engels with an electrical cord and cutting her forehead at a plush hotel in Johannesburg.

The former first lady of Zimbabwe was granted diplomatic immunity by the South African government after the reported assault, but a court found the move was illegal this July, paving the way for the warrant.

"I can confirm that a warrant for the arrest of Grace Mugabe was issued last Thursday," South African Police Service spokesman Vishnu Naidoo said, adding that police were seeking Interpol's help to enforce the warrant.

There was no immediate comment from Grace Mugabe. 

Contradictory stories

The two people involved have wildly different versions of events.

Engels claims she was in the wealthy Sandton neighborhood of Johannesburg with two of the Mugabes' sons when Grace Mugabearrived and lashed out for no reason.

Zimbabwe - Präsident Robert Mugabe und seine Frau Grace Mugabe
Robert and Grace Mugabe have tried to keep a low profile since he was ousted in 2017 in a military coupImage: picture-alliance

Grace Mugabe maintains she acted in self-defense and that Engels was "intoxicated and unhinged" and tried to attack her with a knife.

Shortly after the attack was reported the South African government extended diplomatic immunity to Grace Mugabe, but Engel's lawyers at the advocacy group AfriForum challenged the decision, ultimately winning the case.

Read More: Germany hesitant to re-start cooperation with Zimbabwe one year after Mugabe ouster

Grace Mugabe, who owns property in South Africa, is now at risk of arrest if she tries to visit her sons, who also live there.

Gerrie Nel, a lawyer with AfriForum, has also urged South Africa to begin extradition proceedings, although it is unlikely Zimbabwe will cooperate.

The Mugabes' downfall

The warrant could prove another setback for Robert and Grace Mugabe, who have tried to keep a low profile since he was ousted from office in a military coup in November 2017.

Robert Mugabe, who led Zimbabwe from 1987, is now 94 and his health is failing.

Grace Mugabe, who was dubbed "Gucci Grace" by detractors, faced considerable criticism in parts of Zimbabwe for her lavish lifestyle and perceived political ambitions.

Hopes for Zimbabwe's future

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am/ (dpa, AP, Reuters)