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Grace Mugabe to appear in court in South Africa over alleged hotel assault

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Grace Mugabe, pictured at a rally last month, is alleged to have attacked the woman with an extension cord. Photograph: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP
Grace Mugabe, pictured at a rally last month, is alleged to have attacked the woman with an extension cord. Photograph: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Zimbabwe’s first lady, Grace Mugabe, is to appear in court in South Africa on Tuesday after handing herself in to police over allegations that she assaulted a woman in a Johannesburg hotel.

Mugabe, 52, allegedly attacked Gabriella Engels, 20, with an extension cord, wounding her forehead and the back of her head.


Mugabe went to a police station on Tuesday, Agence France-Presse reported. According to the local eNCA TV channel, she will appear in court later on Tuesday.

The police minister Fikile Mbalula said Mugabe would appear at Wynberg magistrates court on Tuesday afternoon. “She’s not under arrest because she co-operated and handed herself over to the police,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Mbalula told the local Eyewitness News agency: “If she came here with her diplomatic passport, she’ll have diplomatic immunity. This doesn’t mean she cannot be arrested.”


A Zimbabwean intelligence source said Mugabe was travelling on a normal passport. “She was here on business,” the source told Reuters.

Pictures on social media appear to show Engels bleeding in Capital 20 West hotel in the upmarket district of Sandton.

Mugabe allegedly arrived with bodyguards at the hotel on Sunday and accused Engels of living with her sons, Robert and Chatunga, both in their 20s, who are based in the city.


“We were chilling in a hotel room, and [the sons] were in the room next door. She came in and started hitting us,” Engels, a model, was quoted as saying by the TimesLIVE website.

“The front of my forehead is busted open. I’m a model and I make my money based on my looks.”

Mugabe, who is 41 years younger than her husband, Robert, has two sons and a daughter with the Zimbabwean president.

The national police spokesman Vish Naidoo told AFP: “There was a criminal case opened in Sandton at Morningside [station] yesterday, but I can not release any name. Right now we have not arrested anybody.”

South Africa’s foreign affairs spokesman Clayson Monyela said Mugabe’s trip was “a private visit so government cannot get involved if an alleged crime is committed”.

Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, a provincial minister in Gauteng province, told Jacaranda FM that the case should be pursued through the courts.

“We hope that it will send a strong message to all leaders who abuse their power and assault innocent people in our country,” she said.

Grace Mugabe regularly speaks at rallies in Zimbabwe and is seen as a potential successor to her increasingly frail husband.

The Zimbabwean government made no immediate comment.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this article