HOTEL Violence: Granting Grace Mugabe immunity irrational‚ SA court told

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By African News Agency

SOUTH Africa:

The decision by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation to grant former Zimbabwe first lady Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity was not rational according to model Gabriella Engels.

Engels has asked the high court in Pretoria to declare that the decision to grant Mugabe diplomatic immunity did not protect her from prosecution.

Engels‚ together with minority rights group AfriForum‚ joined the application by the Democratic Alliance to set aside the minister’s decision.

The granting of diplomatic immunity happened a week after Mugabe‚ who‚ in an apparent fit of rage‚ allegedly assaulted Engels‚ who was in the company of her Mugabe’s at a hotel in Sandton.

AfriForum is assisting Engels in bringing a private prosecution against Mugabe.

They believe setting aside the granting if diplomatic immunity was first hurdle to be scaled before they could lodge their planned prosecution.

Counsel for Engels and AfriForum‚ Etienne Labuschagne SC‚ addressed the court’s concern about whether there was such a thing as spousal diplomatic immunity in terms of international law.

The court also questioned whether‚ if such immunity existed‚ it had not lapsed as a result of the changed circumstances‚ as Grace Mugabe was no longer the spouse of a sitting head of state.

Labuschagne said Engels sought the court to declare that she was not barred from pursuing a prosecution against Mugabe.

“The question of whether Grace Mugabe enjoys immunity is a live issue‚” Labuschagne said.

He said that should the criminal proceedings that AfriForum sought to pursue in a private prosecution of Mugabe‚ the issue of whether or not she had diplomatic immunity should not arise in the prosecution stage.

“The question of immunity should not be a live question before that court. Mootness‚ as far as Ms Engels is concerned‚ is totally absent‚” Labuschagne said.

Labuschagne said the Minister’s decision also fell to be set aside as it was an exercise of power she did not have.

He said immunity was granted after the assault‚ and the kind of immunity the minister granted to Mugabe could not be conferred retrospectively.

“What happened is that the assault took place on August 13. A week later‚ the minister granted Dr Mugabe immunity from prosecution‚” he said.

Labuschagne said Engels’ rights to have her matter brought to court as her interests were not considered when immunity was granted to her alleged attacker.

The matter continues.