South African Police Issue ‘Red Alert’ To Stop Grace Mugabe From Leaving
Police in South Africa have issued a red alert to stop Zimbabwe’s first lady, Grace Mugabe, from leaving the country after she was accused of assaulting a model at a hotel in Johannesburg.
The African News Agency (ANA) reported that South Africa’s police minister, Fikile Mbalula, had ordered border staff to prevent Mugabe from leaving until the matter was resolved.
Speaking to reporters in Pretoria on Thursday, Mbalula said: “We have already put tabs in the borders in relation to her leaving the country so there is no question about that. The red alert has been put.”
The move comes after Mugabe – the wife of the 93-year-old Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe – failed to appear in court to face charges of assault. Robert Mugabe travelled to Pretoria on Wednesday night in an apparent attempt to help his wife, arriving early for a summit of regional leaders.
Grace Mugabe, 52, is accused of attacking 20-year-old Gabriella Engels with an electrical extension cord after the model went to see the Mugabes’ sons Robert and Chatunga at the Capital 20 West hotel in Johannesburg’s upmarket Sandton district on Sunday.
On Wednesday it was reported that Grace Mugabe may already have returned to Zimbabwe, but Mbalula insisted she had not tried to leave the country.
South African police said Harare had since requested “diplomatic immunity cover”.
“She has her own version of the events … It is for our investigators who have the case and to engage with her to come and answer in relation to this matter,” Mbalula told ANA.
He said police had to treat her differently from an “ordinary person” because of her diplomatic status. “If it was somebody else, in relation with being a suspect … we could have long moved and raided on her in terms of the issues,” said Mbalula.
Pictures posted on social media after the alleged assault appeared to show a cut to Engels’ forehead. She claimed to have more injuries on the back of her head.
“We were chilling in a hotel room, and [the sons] were in the room next door. She came in and started hitting us. She flipped and just kept beating me with the plug, over and over,” Engels told local media.
The South African model said she had no clue who her attacker was until the alleged assault was over. She had “no idea what was going on … I was surprised. I had to crawl out of the room before I could run away,” she said.
Accusing the first lady’s bodyguards of standing by and watching during the alleged assault, Engels said: “The front of my forehead is busted open. I’m a model and I make my money based on my looks.”
Engels has been offered legal help by Gerrie Nel, a lawyer who prosecuted Oscar Pistorius for murder.
Nel told reporters there was a “possibility of political interference” in the case. He said diplomatic immunity could not be used to “escape prosecution from grave crimes”.