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AfriForum: SA govt complicit in crime against Gabriella Engels

Grace Mugabe was facing assault charges after allegedly attacking Engels with an electric cable at a Sandton hotel just over a week ago.

FILE: Gabriella Engels claims that she was assaulted by Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe. Picture: Hitekani Magwedze/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – Lobby group Afriforum says the South African government has become complicit in the crime against 20-year-old Gabriella Engels, allegedly committed by Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe.

Mugabe left the country on Sunday after being granted diplomatic immunity by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane.

She was facing assault charges after allegedly attacking Engels with an electric cable at a Sandton hotel just over a week ago.

AfriForum is now applying to have the decision to grant Mugabe diplomatic immunity reviewed.

The lobby group’s lawyer Willie Spies says the South African government has acted unlawfully and as an accomplice in the crime against Engles.

“Their action now proves that they are partners in crime in this regard. It’s unacceptable and for that reason, we will take it further.”

He says they are confident the application for a review of the decision to grant Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity will be successful.

Spies maintains that the decision is irrational and shows disregard for Engels’ human rights.

DEBBIE ENGELS: GRACE MUGABE FIGHT NOT OVER

Gabriella’s mother while they feel let down by the government, the fight is far from over.

Debbie Engels says she’s disappointed in the government’s decision to put diplomatic ties before justice for her daughter.

“The citizens of this country don’t matter to them, as long as they can keep their allies happy and keep the political roles opened for themselves, it doesn’t matter.”

She says they are exploring their options.

“Our legal team is not just going to leave it at that.”

Meanwhile, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has explained its reasons for granting diplomatic immunity to Grace Mugabe.

Last week, the Zimbabwean government invoked diplomatic immunity and was awaiting a response from Dirco.

In a statement, the department says it is at Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s discretion to grant Mugabe immunity, citing the need to maintain good inter-governmental relations with the SADC region and the derivative immunity of spouses of heads of state.

The department says the minister carefully considered all the relevant factors, including the “need to uphold the rule of law, ensure fair administration of justice and uphold the rights of the complainant” and “the fact that the matter coincides with South Africa's hosting of the 37th SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government.”

It then concludes by saying, “the Department wishes to convey the message that the minister has agonised over this matter and the decision was not an easy one to make.”

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)