PRETORIA, September 20 – The North Gauteng High Court reserved judgement on the application brought by model Gabriella Engels and AfriForum to serve Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe with court papers.
AfriForum legal representative, Eteinne Lubaschagne asked Judge Harshila Koovertjie to authorise it to serve notice of the application on Mugabe at the office of the president of Zimbabwe in Harare.
The application comes after Zimbabwe’s first lady allegedly assaulted Engels in August and was granted diplomatic immunity by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
The lobby group, Afriforum and Engels want the diplomatic immunity afforded to Mugabe set aside.
Lubaschagne said all they want at this stage, was for Mugabe to know about the pending review application.
He said the best thing was to serve the application on the office of the Zimbabwean president in Harare, as Grace Mugabe is married to the president, and is, therefore, a high profile person in that country. In doing it this way, it could be assured that she did receive the notice, he said.
The Zimbabwean Embassy in Pretoria also approached the court and applied to intervene in the application to serve notice of the review proceedings on Mugabe. They asked the court to turn down AfriForum’s application.
Simba Chitando for the embassy of Zimbabwe, said AfriForum did not follow the legal rules pertaining to serving a notice on a person in a foreign country. One of the rules made it clear that applicants had to first establish where a party (Mugabe in this case) lived or worked before they applied to serve a notice.
Chitando argued that the president’s wife did not live or work at the presidency in Harare.
The end goal of Engels and AfriForum is for Mugabe to stand trial here on a charge of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm following an incident on August 13, when she allegedly assaulted the 20-year-old.
Engels claims Mugabe had burst into the Sandton hotel room where she was at the time and that she was hit on the forehead by Mugabe with an electric cord with a plug at the end. She had laid criminal charges against Mugabe, but the first lady never appeared in court as she had received diplomatic immunity.
The mother of a 20-year-old model who was allegedly assaulted by Grace Mugabe rubbished claims that Zimbabwe’s first lady was acting in self-defence when she attacked her daughter in a Johannesburg hotel.
“This is a pathetic attempt to get off the hook. I don’t see how she comes to a point that my daughter wanted to attack her with a knife when she has so many bodyguards surrounding her all the time.”
Debbie Engels was speaking on Tuesday at the high court in Pretoria during an application brought by lobby group AfriForum against the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane for granting Mugabe diplomatic immunity.
The application was brought after Mugabe was allowed to leave the country despite calls she be arrested and prosecuted for allegedly assaulting Gabriella Engels at a luxury hotel in Johannesburg.
In papers filed in the high court, AfriForum, on behalf of Engels, claimed Nkoana-Mashabane did not have the power to grant immunity to Zimbabwe’s first lady.
The papers cite the Minister as the first respondent in the case and Grace Mugabe as the second.
Afriforum said the minister had also failed to take into account that the alleged crime committed by Mugabe constituted a serious offence, as set out in the law.
The applicants further asked the court to declare that the decision to grant Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s wife immunity did not mean she would not be prosecuted.
Engels accused Mugabe of assaulting her and two friends at a luxury Sandton hotel after she had walked in on them visiting her two sons.
Mugabe was allowed to fly out of country under the cover of darkness after Nkoana-Mashabane had granted her immunity from prosecution.
Public outrage followed, with the police being criticised for its failure to arrest her.
Mugabe was meant to have reported to the police to make a statement about the alleged incident the day after Engels had reported the incident, but failed to do so.
The matter is expected to be heard soon.