South African police issue arrest warrant for Grace Mugabe, accused of ‘beating the hell’ out of model Gabriella Engels

  • Model Gabriella Engels says Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s former first lady, attacked her with an electrical extension cord
  • Mugabe’s diplomatic immunity in the case was overturned by a court this year
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 8:03am

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 Mugabe or from authorities in Harare.

The 53-year-old 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 his former right-hand man in the ruling Zanu-PF party, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The warrant comes days after a long-awaited report into the killing of six people by soldiers during a post-elections protest in Harare. On Thursday, opposition figures dismissed the inquiry’s findings as “an effort to whitewash the killing of innocent lives”.

Set up by Mnangagwa, the inquiry found that the military and police were responsible for the deaths, but that the deployment of troops had been lawful after the police had been overwhelmed by protesters. The protests were “pre-planned and orchestrated” and leaders from the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had incited violence, the report added.

It recommended that soldiers should face “internal” disciplinary measures if found to have broken their codes of conduct.

Additional reporting by Reuters