Getting Grace Mugabe before an SA court will be a minor miracle

Former Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe.
Former Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe.
Image: File

Getting former Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe to appear before a South African court will be a difficult‚ if not impossible‚ feat.

On Monday the South Gauteng High Court found that the decision to grant Mugabe diplomatic immunity was "inconsistent with the constitution". Judge Bashier Vally set aside the decision by former international relations and cooperation minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Her being granted diplomatic immunity came after she allegedly assaulted a model in a hotel room last year.

But‚ according to experts‚ this may be only the first step in a long‚ difficult battle to have Mugabe prosecuted on those assault charges.

Institute for Security Studies' international criminal law expert Allan Ngari said an arrest warrant would have to be issued first.

This process may be impossible. I don't see the probability of an arrest warrant effected successfully being too high.

"Ideally‚ the National Prosecuting Authority would need to get the arrest warrant‚ but it is possible for civil society to seek the same. As to the implementation of the warrant‚ this is where it will become very difficult because of diplomatic relationships between South Africa and Zimbabwe. The two governments will have to deal with it‚" he said.

Even though Mugabe is not a state office‚ she “should not receive protection from the state in Zimbabwe”‚ he said.

“But then there is the political connection. And we need to understand the changes currently going on in Zimbabwe diplomatically. This process may be impossible. I don't see the probability of an arrest warrant effected successfully being too high."

The wife of former president Robert Mugabe was accused of assaulting South African model Gabriella Engels at a Johannesburg hotel‚ where Mugabe's two sons were staying.

Engels sustained deep cuts to her forehead and the back of her head and registered a case with the police the next day. But the state granted Mugabe immunity‚ saying it was imperative to maintain good intergovernmental relations within the region‚ and in particular‚ between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

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