Grace Mugabe judgment brings ‘exciting legal scenarios’

Grace Mugabe judgment brings ‘exciting legal scenarios’

The High Court in Johannesburg has set aside the International Relations Department's decision to grant Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity.

But the court on Monday said the decision to grant Mugabe immunity was inconsistent with the country's constitution, a ruling that has been applauded by Afrikaner rights group AfriForum and the opposition party Democratic Alliance who brought the case to the court a year ago.

Police halted Mugabe from fleeing South Africa in August 2017 after model Gabriella Engels accused Mugabe of attacking her in a luxury Johannesburg hotel as punishment for spending time with Mugabe's two sons.

"We said all along that Grace Mugabe was not entitled to diplomatic immunity and the South African government chose to use expediency as a principle".

He said Mugabe simply got away for political reasons. "We are happy with the fact that she will be able to give her side of the story and let the law take its course", Kriel added.

AfriForum chief executive Kallie Kriel said the civil rights organisation was elated.

Richard Chemaly, a legal strategist, said the judgment removes the procedural barrier that is immunity from the equation, but doesn't compel the NPA to reinstate charges against Mugabe.

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The judge said Nkoana-Mashabane's decision to "recognise immunity" was an error in law that was "fundamental and fatal".

"The Mugabes have a house in Sandton that's worth more than R40million".

National Police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo confirmed that the Engels investigation docket was still open and "due processes will follow".

The decision to grant her diplomatic immunity was made by former global relations and cooperation minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, even though Mugabe was in the country in her personal capacity at the time. Naidoo said the same.

DA federal council chairperson James Selfe described the judgment as "a great day for justice [and] the rule of law".

"AfriForum believes that the NPA should act in this regard, but if not advocate Gerrie Nel and AfriForum's private prosecution unit are ready to privately prosecute Mugabe", Spies said.