Debbie Engels: Grace Mugabe fight not over

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

Debbie Engels (left) and her daughter Gabriella Engels, who claims that she was assaulted by Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe. Picture: Hitekani Magwedze/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – The mother of a woman allegedly assaulted by Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe says while they feel let down by the government, the fight is far from over.

Mugabe has been granted diplomatic immunity by the international relations department.

She left the country on Sunday alongside her husband Robert Mugabe after attending the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Pretoria.

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.”

Lobby group Afriforum, which is representing Gabriella Engels, says it will be applying for a review of the decision by the International Relations Department.

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.”