Published: Sat, May 12, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Dept made error granting Grace diplomatic immunity

Dept made error granting Grace diplomatic immunity

The DA and AfriForum are asking the court to set aside government's decision.

Zimbabwe's former first lady is accused of assaulting model Gabriella Engels with an electric cord at an upmarket Johannesburg hotel, where her two sons were staying, in August previous year.

She flew out of the country under the cover of darkness shortly afterwards‚ after Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane controversially granted her diplomatic immunity.

TWO South African minority rights groups have piled pressure on the South African High Court to strip Zimbabwe's former First Lady Grace Mugabe of her diplomatic immunity, so that she could be prosecuted for assaulting model Gabriella Engels with an electric cable. "A week later‚ the minister granted Grace immunity from prosecution‚" he said. She got advice from the legal advisors.

Judge Basheer Waglay asked whether the case was not moot (irrelevant) as Mugabe no longer qualified for diplomatic immunity.

She was granted immunity on August 19.

Counsel for Engels and AfriForum‚ Etienne Labuschagne SC‚ addressed the court's concern about whether there was such a thing as spousal diplomatic immunity in terms of global law. In the Government Gazette the minister said she recognised it.

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Former Zimbabwe first lady Grace Mugabe attends the opening of the annual agricultural fair on 25 August 2017 in Harare.

"I hope she does come back to account. I don't know. I'm not committing myself to any specific time but you will get a written judgment". "I'm happy that the ball has started rolling and we have a good legal team that is backing us, so we are optimistic that things will go well", Debbie Engels said.

Anton Katz SC‚ for the DA‚ said granting diplomatic immunity for the entourage accompanying a head of state remained an uncertain matter.

He lodged a scathing attack on Nkoana-Mashabane, saying her decision was based on the fact that the attack on Engels happened while South Africa was hosting the SADC summit.

He said that should the criminal proceedings that AfriForum sought to pursue in a private prosecution of Mugabe‚ the issue of whether or not she had diplomatic immunity should not arise in the prosecution stage. "Failure of which, we have said this before, we will privately prosecute - if there is no prosecution".

Judge Vally wanted to know the status of Mugabe after her husband was dethroned previous year.

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