Former First Lady Grace Mugabe’s world crumbled yesterday after a South African High Court judge ruled that the decision by the country’s former International Relations and Co-operation minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to grant her diplomatic immunity was “inconsistent with the country’s Constitution”.
South Gauteng High Court judge Justice Bashier Vally’s ruling, paved way for Grace’s possible extradition to face trial for assaulting South African model Gabriella Engels at a Johannesburg hotel last year.
Grace allegedly lost her temper and physically assaulted Engels with an electric cable after finding the model partying with her two sons. The issue attracted global attention with human rights activists calling for Grace’s arrest, but Nkoana-Mashabane came to her defence and granted her diplomatic immunity.
Engels’ lawyer Etienne Labuschagne then teamed up with the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party to petition the High Court challenging Nkoana-Mashabane’s decision.
According to the SA’s police report, Engels sustained deep cuts to her forehead and the back of her head and registered a case with the police the next day. But the South African government granted Grace immunity, saying it was imperative to maintain good intergovernmental relations within the region‚ and in particular‚ between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Engels’s lawyer had requested the court to determine whether “spousal diplomatic immunity” existed in terms of international law.
However, the court also questioned whether‚ if such immunity existed‚ it had not lapsed as a result of the changed circumstances‚ as Grace was no longer the spouse of a sitting head of State.
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