Opposition petitions SA over Grace immunity

HARARE – Opposition parties have stepped up their campaign against Grace Mugabe by joining South African groups when they petitioned President Jacob Zuma’s government to withdraw diplomatic immunity granted to the first lady which allowed her to avoid prosecution for the alleged assault of a 20-year-old model in Johannesburg last month.

Coalescing under the banner of the National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) Youth Forum, the opposition parties presented the petition to South African Embassy on Wednesday.

Initially, they had wanted to march to the embassy but were barred by police who instead allowed thousands of Zanu PF supporters to toyi toyi to the party’s headquarters in solidarity with Grace over her alleged assault of Gabriella Engels.

“In our collective resolve as the citizens of Zimbabwe, (we) implore upon and demand from the government of the Republic of South Africa, the Department of International Relations (Dirco), the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the ministry of Police, the South African Police Services (Saps) and all such other relevant institutions in the justice delivery system of the Republic of South Africa that in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 5, … Engels receives the sufficient remedy for the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment she received from Grace.

“Observe that… Grace … in terms of Article 31 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations did not qualify for diplomatic immunity thus, should face the due legal processes of her alleged assault case.

“The South African justice delivery system rescind the diplomatic immunity that was granted to Grace …in terms of section 7(2) of the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act, 2001 (Act No. 37 of 2001),” the parties said in their petition.

There was uproar after Grace was granted diplomatic immunity, with civil society groups and opposition political parties pressuring the South African government to prosecute her.

South Africa’s vocal opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has since launched a Constitutional Court battle seeking the decision by the minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to grant Grace diplomatic immunity to be declared unconstitutional and invalid.

Grace was last month alleged to have severely assaulted Engels, a 20-year-old model she had found in the hotel with her sons, Robert Junior and Chatunga Bellarmine, in Sandton, South Africa.

Engels alleged Grace struck her several times with an extension cord which left her with multiple injuries, including gushes in the head and forehead which required sutures.

The South African incident was not the first time that Grace had been involved in fracas.

In 2009, Grace was investigated by Hong Kong police for an alleged assault on a British photographer during a shopping trip to the city.

She was accused of repeatedly punching Richard Jones — chief photographer of the Hong Kong photo agency Sinopix — who was on an assignment for the British Sunday Times.

In 2014, Grace confronted journalists at a Singaporean hospital as she bid to block them from photographing Mugabe as he entered Gleneagles facility for his medical check-up.


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