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Robert Mugabe arrives in South Africa amid diplomatic storm around his wife

The Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767 registration Z-WPE landed at Waterkloof Airforce Base just after 7 pm last night using the call sign Zim One.

Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele recceives Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on his arrival at Waterkloof Airforce Base in Pretoria. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe touched down at Waterkloof Airforce Base as a diplomatic storm is brewing around his wife Grace.

Mugabe arrived last night to attend the 37th Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Pretoria this week but it’s understood he changed his plans to travel early to intercede in his wife’s legal matters.

Grace Mugabe is accused of assaulting a woman in Johannesburg and is pleading for diplomatic immunity.

The Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767 registration Z-WPE landed at Waterkloof Airforce Base just after 7 pm last night using the call sign Zim One.

There were a total of 46 passengers on board, including President Mugabe.

The aircraft flew a commercial flight from Harare to Johannesburg to Bulawayo earlier in the day and then had to return to Harare to fetch Mugabe and his entourage as he had changed his plans to travel to South Africa sooner than expected.

The Boeing left South Africa around an hour after it landed as it’s needed for air Zimbabwe duty.

Mugabe was scheduled to only arrive on Friday for the SADC summit along with other heads of state but he came two days early to diffuse the situation around his wife Grace and her legal issues.

On Wednesday afternoon the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) confirmed it’s received correspondence from the Zimbabwean government invoking diplomatic immunity for First Lady.

The exact whereabouts and the progress of the case against Mugabe had not been revealed amid speculation that President Jacob Zuma and his counterpart Mugabe may be holding discussions.

The Police Ministry announced in a statement on Wednesday afternoon that Mugabe was still in the country.

Her lawyers told authorities on Tuesday that she wished to invoke diplomatic immunity relating to the assault case against her and that’s why she failed to hand herself over.

International Relations spokesperson Clayson Monyela said the department has been in contact with the Zimbabwean government.

If immunity is granted, this will mark the second-time Mugabe gets diplomatic protection over an assault case.

She allegedly assaulted a British photographer in Hong Kong in 1999 but no charges were brought against her.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)