South Africa is planning to grant diplomatic immunity to Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe, allowing her to return to Harare and avoid prosecution for the alleged assault of a 20-year-old model, a government source said on Friday.
Police have put border posts on “red alert” to prevent Mugabe fleeing and indicated she will receive no special treatment in the case involving Gabriella Engels, who says Mugabe whipped her with an electric extension cable.
Engels said she was assaulted by Mugabe on Sunday evening as she waited with two friends in a luxury Johannesburg hotel suite to meet one of Mugabe’s adult sons.
A senior government source said there was “no way” Mugabe, 52, would be arrested because of the diplomatic fallout that would ensue from Zimbabwe, which has been led for nearly four decades by 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe.
Other countries in southern Africa that supported South Africa’s ruling ANC in the long struggle against apartheid would also see Grace Mugabe’s prosecution as a betrayal, the source said.
“There would obviously be implications for our relations with Zimbabwe. Sadly the other countries in the region are watching us and how we are going to act,” the source said, asking not to be named.
“What is likely to happen is that she will be allowed to go back home, and then we announce that we’ve granted diplomatic immunity and wait for somebody to challenge us.”