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Zimbabwe First Lady Wants Diplomatic Immunity Over Assault

President Robert Mugabe kisses his wife and first lady Grace Mugabe during during the country's 37th Independence Day celebrations at the National Sports Stadium in Harare April 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe has requested diplomatic immunity over an allegation that she assaulted a young model in Johannesburg earlier this week, said South Africa’s police.

Mugabe is still in South Africa after a day of intense speculation over her whereabouts after a 20-year-old model accused the wife of Zimbabwe’s president of assault, said South African police in a statement issued Wednesday.

The police said the Zimbabwean government asked for diplomatic immunity for a suspect involved in the assault. The police have declined to name Mugabe in the case as she has not yet appeared in court.

The immunity request is currently under consideration, Clayson Monyela, a spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation told The Associated Press.

Gabriella Engels, a 20-year-old model, registered a case with police on Monday accusing Mugabe, 52, of attacking her with an extension cord in a luxury hotel in a Johannesburg suburb late Sunday evening.

Engels claimed she was in a hotel room with mutual friends of the Mugabes’ two sons, who live in Johannesburg, when the first lady burst into the room and assaulted her. Photos of Engels posted on social media show a bloody gash to her forehead that she claimed was a result of the encounter.

Confusion over whether Mugabe was still in the country flared up on Tuesday after South Africa’s police minister said she was due to appear in a South African court and she did not show up, fueling speculation she may have returned to Zimbabwe.

Police clarified on Wednesday that while the suspect had failed to present herself to police to obtain a “warning statement” about the case, she remained in the country and had sent her lawyers and Zimbabwe government officials to tell police she intended to request diplomatic immunity.

“Discussions with the suspect’s lawyers and the Zimbabwean High Commission representatives are taking place to make sure that the suspect is processed through the legal system,” the police statement said.

On Wednesday, acting national police commissioner Lesetja Mothiba said in a parliamentary committee that police and national prosecutors wanted to charge Mugabe despite the immunity request, according to African News Agency.

Engels told AP she would be willing to face Mugabe in court.

“I want to go to court because I really feel like she should go to jail for what she did to me,” she said. “I don’t want her to get away with this. Because what happened to me was not OK.”


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