Zimbabwe first lady Grace Mugabe leaves South Africa despite assault claim | News | DW | 20.08.2017
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Zimbabwe first lady Grace Mugabe leaves South Africa despite assault claim

South Africa has granted Zimbabwe's first lady diplomatic immunity, allowing her to fly home. Mugabe was accused of assaulting a model she found with her sons in a Johannesburg hotel.

Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe flew home from South Africa to Zimbabwe on Sunday, according to state media, ending a week of confusion about her whereabouts.  

Mugabe was granted diplomatic immunity despite claims that she assaulted a young model at a hotel in Johannesburg, the South African government announced on Sunday.

"I hereby recognize the immunities and privileges of the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Dr. Grace Mugabe," said International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in a notice published in the Government Gazette.

Zimbabwe state broadcaster ZBC aired footage of the first lady arriving at the airport in Harare on Sunday, saying she had returned from South Africa.

ZBC said that Mugabe arrived "in the early hours of the morning" with her husband Robert Mugabe, the 93-year-old president who has ruled Zimbabwe for nearly 30 years. President Mugabe had been in South Africa to attend a regional leaders summit.

Grace Mugabe stands accused of assaulting 20-year-old Gabriella Engels inside a luxury hotel room after she discovered the woman with her two sons. Engels has said that she was just "chilling" with the men, when the first lady entered and began to beat her with an electrical cord.

Photographs of the young woman with a large cut on her forehead soon surfaced online.

'She will find it difficult to come back to South Africa'

South African police had issued a "red alert" at its borders to be sure that Grace Mugabe did not leave undetected, which may have been what spurred several "false alarm" claims that she had already left the country.

"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," said Willie Spies, a lawyer for AfriForum, which is representing Engels.

Grace Mugabe has often found her name splashed across the headlines due to her notorious temper and penchant for lavish shopping sprees. Recent political maneuvering on her part, such as insisting the government reinstate a rule that one of the ruling party's vice presidents has to be a woman, has led to rumors that she is trying to position herself to succeed her husband, who is 40 years her senior.

The alleged assault put South Africa's government in a difficult spot and raised tensions with its neighbor. 

Flights between the two countries resumed Sunday after a tit-for-tat escalation on Friday and Saturday that saw an Air Zimbabwe grounded in Johanesburg and a South African Airways flight similarly stuck in Harare.

jm/kl (AP, AFP)

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