Grace Mugabe: South Africa immunity decision condemned

Image source, AFP/Getty Images
Image caption,
Protesters gathered in Pretoria to criticise the government's decision to grant Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity

South Africa's main opposition party has condemned the government's decision to grant Zimbabwe's first lady diplomatic immunity despite an assault claim.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called for a parliamentary inquiry, accusing the government of protecting its "dodgy friends".

Mrs Mugabe, 52, is accused of assaulting model Gabriella Engels at a hotel in Johannesburg.

She has not publicly commented.

President Robert Mugabe and his wife arrived back in Harare early on Sunday.

"It illustrates how unrepentant the ANC government is and, following its complicity in allowing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to escape an international arrest warrant [in 2015], shows that the ANC government will continue to do exactly what it wants to protect their dodgy friends," the DA said in a statement.

South Africa's foreign ministry said that International Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane had "agonised over the matter".

Media caption,
Model Gabriella Engels: Grace Mugabe "beat the hell out of me"

A lawyer for Ms Engels, Willie Spies, told the BBC that they would challenge the immunity decision in court - arguing that the first lady should not have been given special treatment as she had been in South Africa on private business.

Gabriella Engels' mother has accused the government of prioritising its "allies" over South African citizens, Johannesburg-based Eyewitness News reports.

"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," Debbie Engels is quoted as saying.

"Our legal team is not just going to leave it at that," she added.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Mrs Mugabe failed to show up at a summit in Pretoria on Saturday

Ms Engels spoke at a press conference on Thursday with a large plaster on her forehead.

She claimed that Mrs Mugabe "beat the hell out of her" with an extension cable, at the hotel where she was staying with the First Lady's two sons.

"I just remember being curled down on the floor with blood rushing down my face and down my neck," she told the BBC.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation said the Mugabes were scheduled to attend a funeral for a state minister at Harare's Heroes Acre on Sunday.