Bursary and other support pours in for #GraceMugabe victim

Gabriella Engels sits during a press conference at the AfriForum Offices in Centurion. Picture: Alaister Russell

Cape Town – Support for model Gabriella Engels, who was assaulted by Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe, has continued to pour in as two women, one of them from Cape Town, secured the 20-year-old a bursary to complete a make-up artistry course at Face to Face Beauty & Make-up Design School.

Civil rights organisation AfriForum, which has taken on Engels’s legal fight, has welcomed the offer.

Angela Botha from Kommetjie acted as a link between the beauty school’s principal, Shirley Wenman, and AfriForum.

Botha had posted a message of support for Engels on a Facebook community group, which Wenman saw.

The women soon interacted on the post, and Wenman then asked Botha to liaise with AfriForum, which Botha said she did.

Botha said she considered Engels to be a brave role model.

“Some people picked on her and said nasty things. Her fight then became my cause. I contacted AfriForum and they were delighted,” Botha said.

Wenman said she admired Engels for standing up to Mugabe.

“After reading about how Grace hit her and seeing the wounds, my heart broke. My first thought was that make-up will be able to cover the scar she will have on her forehead for the rest of her life. I then read that she has refused a bribe, and I said I needed to do something to show I admire her,” Wenman said.

The course Engels was offered is in Parktown, Johannesburg. AfriForum’s legal representative, Willie Spies, said they would encourage Engels to consider the offer.

“Her trauma counsellor will discuss it with her later this week. Ultimately it is her decision but it is an opportunity we will discuss with her,” Spies said.

Engels, 20, was attacked by Mugabe while visiting the first lady’s sons, Robert Jr and Chatunga Bellarmine Mugabe, at an upmarket hotel in Sandton about two weeks ago.

Mugabe used an extension cord to assault Engels and her two friends, while the two sons and Mugabe’s bodyguards stood by and watched.

Engels soon posted pictures of an open cut on her forehead, which went viral.

AfriForum‘s Gerrie Nel is representing Engels, and at the end of last week they filed a review application at the North Gauteng High Court, asking the court to set aside a decision by International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to grant diplomatic immunity to Mugabe.

AfriForum said that according to a statement Engels made, Nkoana-Mashabane had misinterpreted section 7(2) of the Diplomatic Immunity and Privileges Act, and she did not have the power to grant immunity to Mugabe.

The application is expected to be heard in the high court within five months.

The Herald in Harare reported that Mugabe last Friday “reiterated the need to inculcate a culture of respect for women among the nation’s young men”.

Mugabe was speaking at the Harare Agricultural Show.

The newspaper reports her saying: “I visited various stands; of course, my first port of call was the Adult Rape Clinic stand.

“I think it’s due to what is happening in society, those who initiated that programme realised that rape cases are on the increase and someone should do something.”

francesca.villette@inl.co.za

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