Pretoria – The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria reserved judgment on Tuesday in an application by model Gabriella Engels and lobby group AfriForum to serve papers on Zimbabwean First lady Grace Mugabe in their pending application to set aside the diplomatic immunity afforded to her.
Lawyer Willie Spies said as Mugabe is central to the review proceedings, she should be notified accordingly so that she can become a party to those proceedings and oppose if she wanted to.
AfriForum asked Judge Harshila Koovertjie to authorise it to serve notice of the application on Mugabe at the office of the president of Zimbabwe in Harare.
It made it clear that these proceedings were a mere first step in setting aside Minister of International relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s decision to grant Mugabe diplomatic immunity.
The end goal of Engels and AfriForum is for Mugabe to stand trial here on a charge of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm following an incident on August 13, when she allegedly assaulted the 20-year-old model.
Engels claimed Mugabe had burst into the Sandton hotel room where she was at the time and that she was hit on the forehead by Mugabe with an electric cord with a plug at the end.
She had laid criminal charges against Mugabe, but the first lady never appeared in court as she had received diplomatic immunity.
The Zimbabwean Embassy in Pretoria meanwhile on Tuesday also approached the court and applied to intervene in the application to serve notice of the review proceedings on Mugabe. They asked the court to turn down AfriForum’s application.
Advocate Etienne Labuschagne SC, acting on behalf of AfriForum argued that the embassy had no business entering the fray at this stage. He said it is understandable that they would oppose the review proceedings, but in terms of the law they had no legal standing at this point.
Labuschagne said all they want at this stage, was for Grace Mugabe to know about the pending review application. He said had asked the embassy whether they could serve the application on it and that they then bring it to her attention, but they never received an answer in this regard.
He said the next best thing is to serve the application on the office of the Zimbabwean president in Harare, as Grace Mugabe is married to the president, and is, therefore, a high profile person in that country. In doing it this way, it could be assured that she did receive the notice, he said.
But counsel for the embassy of Zimbabwe, Simba Chitando, vehemently objected.
He said it was not the embassy or Zimbabwe’s duty to assist AfriForum in tracing Grace Mugabe and ensuring that she did receive notice of the application.
He said AfriForum did not follow the legal rules pertaining to serving a notice on a person in a foreign country. One of the rules made it clear that applicants had to first establish where a party (Mugabe in this case) lived or worked before they applied to serve a notice.
Chitando said Grace Mugabe did not live or work at the presidency in Harare.
The judge meanwhile reserved judgment on the issue whether the embassy at this early stage had the right to intervene in the proceedings. If the court ruled in favour of the embassy, it would mean that the application will be heard afresh, on an opposed basis. – IOL