Zim embassy backs out of Grace assault case
THE Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, yesterday ordered the Zimbabwean Consulate to file an affidavit in seven days stating whether or not it was representing Grace Mugabe, accused of assaulting a 20-year-old South African model.
Acting Judge Harshila Koovertjie made the order in a matter in which Gabriella Engels and AfriForum are asking the court to set aside Mugabe’s diplomatic immunity from prosecution.
AfriForum has also been given seven days to respond to an affidavit by the Zimbabwean Consulate.
Then the matter is to be argued again in motion court.
In a surprising turn of events, the consulate had decided to withdraw from the matter, citing its legal representative had received threats. “The Zimbabwean embassy, regardless of the outcome of the proceedings, shall no longer participate in these hearings,” said advocate Simba Chitando.
He said he had received instructions from the Consul-General of the Zimbabwean embassy, and he read out a message he had received, by cellphone.
“I have read the memorandum by advocate Chitando, our counsel of record, and I have personally seen various threats made against him while representing the Zimbabwean Embassy. The conduct of various individuals has made the Zimbabwean Embassy embarrassed and it’s future involvement in this matter is undesirable.”
AfriForum’s legal representative Willie Spies said it was caught off guard on September 19 when the embassy came to court to oppose an application that is normally not opposed.
Spies said it was clear the embassy was using delaying tactics and its purpose was to frustrate the court’s process and ensure justice is delayed. “Fortunately, they have withdrawn, which makes the process easier.”
Spies said the order has not been granted yet and no one got what they wanted; instead the matter was postponed for hearing on opposed motion roll.
Zimbabwe’s first lady allegedly assaulted Engels in August and was granted diplomatic immunity by South African Minister of International relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
The model, who knows Mugabe’s sons and was with them at the time, said their mother hit her on the forehead with an electric cord which had a plug at the end.
Engles laid criminal charges against Mugabe, who failed to appear and instead secured immun- ity from prosecution.
Mugabe, 52, denies the allegations. Instead, she claims Engels tried to attack her with a knife.
Meanwhile, Independent Media journalist Siyabonga Mkhwanazi writes that Parliament appears to have halted plans for Nkoana-Mash- abane to account for the diplomatic immunity granted to Mugabe, despite mounting pressure from the opposition parties for the minister to do so.
Yesterday, chairman of the portfolio committee on international relations Siphosezwe Masango confirmed that Nkoana-Mashabane would appear before it next week, but would not talk about the Mugabe matter. Masango said this followed a letter Nkoana-Mashabane wrote to them that she would not discuss the matter in Parliament because it was sub judice.
This followed court action by the DA to force Mugabe to be held accountable for the attack on Engels.
Masango said the minister was supposed to talk about the issue of Mugabe, but she would now talk to the committee about her department’s annual report.
“After (her trip to) Vietnam she was supposed to come, but she subsequently wrote us a letter that the DA has taken her to court and the matter is sub judice,” said Masango.
He said Nkoana-Mashabane will not deal with the matter in Parliament until it has been adjudicated by the court.
AfriForum’s lawyer Willie Spies at the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, during the Grace Mugabe case for allegedly assaulting Gabriella Engels.