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DA: Grace Mugabe granted immunity simply to shield her from facing law

The DA says Mugabe is not a member of the Zimbabwean government and she was in South Africa on personal business.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace stand by the monument of the Unknown Soldier during Heroes Day commemorations in Harare on 10 August 2015. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG – The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it’s clear that Grace Mugabe has been granted diplomatic immunity simply to shield her from being tried in a court of law.

The opposition party has filed papers in both the Gauteng High Court and the Constitutional Court against the decision of the International Relations Minister to grant diplomatic immunity.

It wants the court to set aside the decision, saying it’s without legal merit and must be declared unconstitutional and invalid.

The Zimbabwean first lady is accused of assaulting Gabriella Engels in a Sandton hotel.

The DA says Mugabe is not a member of the Zimbabwean government and she was in South Africa on personal business.

DA Federal Council Chairperson James Selfe says, “Mrs Mugabe was here as a private citizen. The Minister of International Relations decided to grant her diplomatic immunity.

“We think that was illegal, it was irrational and that there’s nothing in her position as a private citizen seeking medical aid in South Africa to qualify her for diplomatic immunity.”

FIRST PUBLIC APPEARANCE

On Friday, Mugabe made her first public appearance since leaving South Africa where she was charged with assault.

The Mugabe attended a farming fair in Harare, where Grace was seen smiling and talking with exhibitors. She made no public comment.

Harare has made no official comment on the assault case and requests for comment from Zimbabwean government officials have gone unanswered.

Selfe said: “There is nothing in either South African or international law which renders her deserving of diplomatic immunity.”

He said the party hoped that if the immunity is lifted Mugabe would have to surrender herself to South African state prosecutors or be extradited to face the charges. If not she could be declared persona non grata, prohibited from visiting South Africa.

Advocacy group Afriforum has given legal backing to the alleged victim, Engels, and is working on the case with Gerrie Nel - the prosecutor who secured a murder conviction against Olympic and Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)