Nkoana-Mashabane: Grace Mugabe immunity decision had to be made

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane says she took the decision after 'a careful weighing up' of the circumstances.

Zimbabwes first lady Grace Mugabe speaks during a campaign meeting at the City Sports Center in Harare, 8 October, 2014. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane says her decision to grant diplomatic immunity to Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe was difficult but had to be made.

In a letter informing National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete of her decision, Nkoana-Mashabane says that South Africa's relations with Zimbabwe and the hosting of a successful Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit were important considerations she had to weigh up.

Mugabe was allowed to leave South Africa despite being investigated for the assault of 20-year-old Gabrielle Engels at a Sandton hotel earlier this month.

In the letter, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane says she granted Mugabe immunity after “considering all the relevant facts, including the need to uphold the rule of law, ensure fair administration of justice and to uphold the rights of the complainant.”

She says South Africa’s relations with Zimbabwe and the SADC region were an important factor as well as the international law that provides immunity for the spouses of heads of state.

Nkoana-Mashabane says she took the decision after “a careful weighing up” of the circumstances.

She’s expected to appear before Parliament’s foreign affairs oversight committee next week to face Members of Parliament’s questions over the decision, which sparked an outcry.

International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane's letter to National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete on her decision to grant Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity. Picture: Supplied.

(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)