South Africa Grants Grace Mugabe Diplomatic Immunity, To Critics' Dismay

South Africa Grants Grace Mugabe Diplomatic Immunity, To Critics' Dismay

Signed on Saturday, the notice recognises "the immunities and privileges of the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Dr Grace Mugabe".

A Zimbabwean flight was also prohibited from leaving OR Tambo International on Friday night.

It follows a chaotic week where Mrs Mugabe's clandestine efforts to avoid capture made a mockery of the SA justice system, and she was eventually bundled back to Zimbabwe. South Africa has been mulling over whether or not she qualifies for diplomatic immunity.

South African media reported that during a press briefing the lawyers said no guidelines were given by the officials as to what would happen if the Engels family do not write an amount on the cheque.

The first lady is alleged to have assaulted Gabriella Engels with an electrical extension cable on August 13 at the hotel where the model was staying with Mugabe's two sons who have a reputation for partying.

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

The scandal over Grace Mugabe is a sensitive issue for South Africa as it weighs the possible diplomatic fallout from Zimbabwe if it acts against the first lady - and the likely outrage at home if it grants immunity and allows her to leave.

However, the South African government as well as the Zimbabwean government have said the restrictions were imposed because the planes did not have "foreign operator's permit".

South African Airways said it has prepared and submitted required documents after the cancellation of flights between Johannesburg, the Zimbabwean capital of Harare and the Zimbabwean city of Victoria Falls.

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.

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Grace and Robert Mugabe's two sons Robert Jnr and Chatunga live in Johannesburg, where they have a reputation for partying.

Unnamed government sources were quoted on Friday by local and worldwide media outlets as saying there was no way Ms Mugabe would be arrested and charged for allegedly assaulting model Gabriella Engels (20) last weekend.

Ms Engels' representatives also said they had sent a letter to the government over a convention that diplomatic immunity can not be used to escape prosecution from grave crimes.

Grace was initially in South Africa to seek medical attention after a freak accident involving Mugabe's motorcade on the Zanu PF leader's return from Asia last month.

Zimbabwe's outspoken first lady has always been criticized for a fiery temper and lavish shopping expeditions, but her rising political profile has some asking whether she is maneuvering to succeed her husband.

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Reporting Robert Mugabe's visit to South Africa, Zimbabwe's Herald newspaper, the government's main mouthpiece, made no mention of the controversy swirling around his wife, which puts Pretoria in a diplomatic bind.

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