Tshwane – The young Johannesburg model Gabriella Engels who opened assault charges against Grace Mugabe in 2017, on Thursday said she hoped Zimbabwe’s former first lady would be brought back to South Africa to face the charges.
“I hope she does come back to account. I leave everything now in God’s hands and I know that he will get us through everything,” Gabriella spoke to journalists as she walked into the packed courtroom at the High Court in Pretoria where Mugabe’s diplomatic immunity is being challenged.
Gabriella was accompanied by her mother Debbie Engels, who said she was optimistic that justice would prevail.
“I’m very optimistic. Very, very optimistic. I’m happy that the ball has started rolling and we have a good legal team that is backing us, so we are optimistic that things will go well,” she said.
Civil rights group AfriForum is now representing Gabriella in court.
Head of AfriForum’s private prosecution unit, Advocate Gerrie Nel, told African News Agency the civil rights group was confident the diplomatic immunity granted to Mrs Mugabe in the wake of the 2017 assault case would be set aside by the court.
“We are saying the granting of the diplomatic immunity happened as an afterthought. It was after the assault on our client Ms Gabriella Engels. We want to ensure that there is equality before the law, that there are no selective prosecutions, and that people are not sheltered from prosecution because of an afterthought of granting diplomatic immunity,” said Nel.
“We believe that … we are very confident that the diplomatic immunity will be lifted. If that happens, then certainly the NPA must do their duty and that is to ensure that the accused is brought back into the country and that there is a prosecution. Failure of which, we have said this before, we will privately prosecute – if there is no prosecution.”
The Democratic Alliance, together with AfriForum, were before the high court on Thursday, pleading with the high court to set aside a decision of the minister of international relations and cooperation to grant then-president Robert Mugabe’s outspoken wife diplomatic immunity in the wake of the alleged physical assault on Engels.
Robert Mugabe, 94, ruled Zimbabwe from independence in 1980 until he stepped down last year – under immense pressure within his party Zanu PF and the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
African News Agency/ANA