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Grace Mugabe faces arrest warrant in South Africa over 2017 model assault

Grace Mugabe claimed diplomatic immunity to escape arrest in South Africa for a 2017 alleged assault on model, Gabriella Engels. 

South Africa has issued an arrest warrant for Zimbabwe’s former first lady Grace Mugabe in relation to an alleged assault on a woman in a hotel in Johannesburg last year.

Gabriella Engels accused Mugabe of beating the “hell out” of her with an electrical extension cord in a room at the Capital 20 West hotel in Johannesburg’s Sandton district. After the alleged assault came to light in August 2017, the South African government granted Mugabe diplomatic immunity. That immunity was overturned by a court this year after Engels, a model, challenged the decision.

“I can confirm that a warrant for the arrest of Grace Mugabe was issued last Thursday,” said Vishnu Naidoo, a spokesman for South Africa’s police service. He said police were seeking Interpol’s help to enforce the warrant.

There was no immediate comment from Grace Mugabe.

The two countries have an extradition agreement, but Zimbabwe’s deputy minister for information, Energy Mutodi, told Reuters that Harare would not extradite Mugabe.

“I believe the government of Zimbabwe will not tolerate any harassment or degrading treatment on the former president Mugabe and his immediate family members,” Mutodi said, adding that he would need to consult with President Emmerson Mnangagwa on a final decision.

Grace Mugabe, 53, was seen as a potential successor to her 94-year-old husband, Robert Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe from 1980 until he was ousted in a coup late last year.

She has denied assaulting Engels with an extension cord, saying an “intoxicated and unhinged” Engels attacked her with a knife after going to see the Mugabe’s sons at the hotel. The South African advocacy group AfriForum, which represented Engels, has accused Mugabe of lying.

Mugabe has retreated from the limelight in Zimbabwe since her husband was ousted. Elections in August were won by Mnangagwa, his former righthand man in the ruling Zanu-PF party. -Reuters/Guardian

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