Afriforum ‘won’t be deterred’ by Grace

AfriForum has reportedly said that it won’t be deterred in its case against Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe after she maintained in court papers that the young South African model Gabriella Engels who accused her of assault was the actual aggressor.

According to SABC, AfriForum spokesperson Willie Spies said that it was typical of a criminal to blame the victim for their crime.

“I was not surprised to read that she wrote the statement. And it doesn’t change our case at all; for that very reason we believe it is so important that this matter should not be left to politicians to decide, should not be left to her friends to grant her immunity. It should be left to the courts to determine the truth and to make sure that the true events of that evening are determined and that justice runs its course,” Spies was quoted as saying.

Reports this week indicated that Grace’s representatives had claimed in court papers that Engels, who accused her of assault was the actual aggressor, as she allegedly attacked the first lady with a knife while drunk.

The court papers denying any wrongdoing by Grace were submitted on August 17 by Zimbabwean diplomats on behalf of the first lady, who was granted diplomatic immunity by South Africa despite calls for her prosecution in the alleged attack on Engels in a Johannesburg hotel on August 13. She returned to Zimbabwe a week after the alleged assault with President Robert Mugabe, who had attended a summit of southern African leaders in Pretoria.

‘In trouble with a drunken young woman’

According to the court filing, Grace went to see her sons in a hotel suite because they were “in trouble with a drunken young woman”.

“Upon her arrival Ms Engels, who was intoxicated, and unhinged, attacked Dr Grace Mugabe with a knife after she was asked to leave the hotel room. Security was left with no other option but to remove Ms. Engels from the hotel suite.”

Mugabe “reserves the right to press charges of attempted murder” against Engels, the document said.

But according to Engels’s version of the incident, she was in a hotel room with mutual friends of Grace’s two sons, who lived in Johannesburg, when the first lady burst into the room and assaulted her. Photos posted on social media showed a bloody gash to Engels’ forehead that she claimed was a result of the encounter.

In 2009, a photographer accused Grace of beating him up in Hong Kong. While the Zimbabwean president’s outspoken wife has been criticised for a fiery temper and lavish shopping expeditions, her rising political profile has some asking whether she is manoeuvring to succeed her husband. She recently said that Zimbabwe’s ruling party should restore a constitutional provision stating one of the party’s vice presidents should be a woman, and has publicly challenged her 93-year-old husband to name a successor.

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