Hong Kong pressed to explain leniency on Mugabe guards

The Hong Kong government was being pressed Monday to explain why bodyguards working for the daughter of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe were not prosecuted for an alleged assault on two newspaper photographers.

Senior legislator and barrister Margaret Ng wrote to the city’s Secretary for Justice, calling reports of the assault “disturbing” and demanding a detailed explanation of the decision.

The two bodyguards—a man called Mapfumo Marks and a woman called Manyaira Reliance Pepukai—allegedly assaulted Colin Galloway and Tim O’Rourke on February 13 outside the house where Bona Mugabe is living while studying at a Hong Kong university.

But after a police investigation, the Department of Justice announced last week that Marks and Pepukai would not be prosecuted because they acted out of “real concern” for the safety of Bona Mugabe, who was inside the house at the time of the incident.

The incident took place just one month after Bona’s mother Grace allegedly assaulted another photographer who took pictures of her shopping in Tsim Sha Tsui. The Department of Justice later decided she was entitled to diplomatic immunity as Robert Mugabe’s wife In her letter to Secretary for Justice Wong Yan Lung, Ng said: “The case of [Grace] Mugabe’s immunity had already aroused great public concern. The department’s decision not to prosecute the bodyguards will undoubtedly increase the concern unless it is clearly justified.

“On the basis of the [news] reports, the guards’ assault outside Ms Mugabe’s home was unjustified.
The complainants were identified as journalists seeking to photograph Ms Mugabe. Any threat posed to her safety would seem remote.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice defended the decision not to prosecute. “The decision was solely based on the strength of the case. Any suggestion that there might be other considerations, political or otherwise, affecting our decision is totally unfounded,” she said.

The bodyguards were about to take Bona Mugabe to university and felt “real concern at the approach of the two men just as Miss Mugabe was about to depart”, she said.

“The bodyguards appeared to have had suspicions over the motives of the men, whom they regarded as trespassers, in being at the scene at all.”

Journalists and other legislators have already criticised the decision not to prosecute the bodyguards as damaging to Hong Kong’s press freedom.

Bona Mugabe (20), who is believed to be studying at Hong Kong’s City University, is expected to return to Zimbabwe with her bodyguards later this month for her summer holiday.—Sapa-dpa

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