Wanted Grace avoids South Africa

HARARE - First Lady Grace Mugabe, who is facing mounting legal troubles in neighbouring South Africa, opted to stay at home this time around and did not accompany her husband President Robert Mugabe to Pretoria where he will be co-chairing the bi-national commission with his counterpart from the rainbow nation, Jacob Zuma.

Grace is facing legal hurdles in South Africa where a 20-year-old model, Gabriella Engels, is pressing charges against her.

The first lady only escaped going to court in South Africa because Zuma’s administration granted her diplomatic immunity.

Legal experts and political analysts said it is telling that Mugabe chose not to take his wife to South Africa because of the controversy she stirred in that country.

Kent University law lecturer Alex Magaisa said it was better that Grace stayed home than bring unnecessary attention to the crucial bi-national commission meeting focused on trade between Zimbabwe and her biggest trading partner, South Africa.

“I suspect this trip would have been one of the factors that swayed the South African government to grant her diplomatic immunity. But a deal might have been struck that she would have to skip the trip to avoid unnecessary drama that would otherwise eclipse the agenda of the bi-lateral engagement,” said Magaisa.

“Grace in South Arica would have generated a legal and media sideshow that would have detracted from the main purpose of the official visit,” he added.

Grace attacked Engels with an electric extension cable around mid-August when she found her in the company of her troublesome sons — Robert Junior and Chatunga — inside their hotel room during her recent visit to South Africa.

She escaped arrest because Mugabe was due to attend a Sadc summit — and this enabled Zimbabwe to request for diplomatic immunity, which was granted much to the consternation of civil rights groups who, according to South African media, were keen to demonstrate against the first lady yesterday.

After she was granted diplomatic immunity, Engels and civil rights group AfriForum have persisted with their efforts to bring her to book by appealing the granting of the order.

According to South African media, the pressure group is still pursuing the matter and wants the diplomatic immunity granted to the controversial first lady revoked to allow for her prosecution. The matter is presently at the courts across the Limpopo.

“And she should enjoy it because it will be the last time, if we succeed,” said AfriForum chairperson Kallie Kriel.

Although Grace is still covered by diplomatic immunity, she could face challenges in South Africa where some people are determined to embarrass her, which might explain why she opted to stay behind.

Quoting diplomatic sources, the Daily Maverick of South Africa said Zuma’s government was not about to declare Grace “a persona no grata” but the message that was sent to Harare was clear.

Mugabe, 93, has been relying on his wife’s aid as he struggles to keep up with the rigours of his punishing schedule.

The two are avid fliers with Grace also into fashion and rarely missing a shopping trip in foreign lands.

Observers said Grace’s presence at the summit would have created an unnecessary sideshow, pointing out that of all trips that Mugabe has taken, this is perhaps the most legitimate and reasonable as it will benefit Zimbabweans directly — both those resident in the country and in South Africa.

“It is an important meeting, remember South Africa is Zimbabwe’s partner and most Zimbabweans are in South Africa because South Africa is the only economy that can absorb the huge influx of Zimbabweans in the Southern African Development Community,” said academic and researcher Pedzisai Ruhanya.

“It is a crucial for Zimbabwe trade relations, this is one of the most legitimate and carefully-planned meetings because it addresses the fundamentals because good relations protect our citizens, they should actually have more meetings because this is an important engagement,” he added.

Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi was quoted by South African media saying the meeting will enable the two countries to close deals that have been on the agenda for years now.

“Our two countries stand to benefit immensely from the smooth movement of people and goods through the Beitbridge-Musina border post. A one-stop at the busiest border post in the African continent will bring harmonised processes, improved infrastructure and smiles to many of our compatriots and others who regularly traverse through this border. It will produce impacts that will extend beyond our two countries and region,” said Mumbengegwi.

“The establishment of the one-stop border post at Beitbridge-Musina is an urgent issue that needs our dedicated attention.”

MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said Grace knew that if she had travelled with Mugabe, Engels and her lawyers would have sought an urgent court order to have her arrested.

He said South Africa was no longer a safe destination for Grace until and unless she resolves her legal issues in that country.

“She knows that the diplomatic immunity that she was granted recently in South Africa is very porous and tenuous. If she travels down south right now, she will be nabbed. There is absolutely no doubt about that,” said Gutu.

Human rights activist Edinah Masanga said it could be that both sides wanted to avoid the PR ramifications that could come with such a huge gamble.

“Obviously, Zuma does not want to be seen to be supporting what Grace is alleged to have done. So, in my opinion, this could be a matter of interest for both sides to avoid a media /PR storm. And wisely, she chose to stay although we know she does not seem to care what people think. So in this case, it may be that she has no choice but to stay,” said Masanga.

Comments (3)

We shall sing that song by Zex Manatssa, "Dzvinyu kuzambira zuva kuona mwena" Remember that song by the now pastor Zex Manatsa.....Dzvinyu kuzambira zuva kouna mwena zvinyu iwe wotomhanyira mugomo wotomhanya. Ko mwena zvawakavharwa, zvinyu iwe wozambire kupiko...woto mhanyir mugomo woto mhanya......muswetu swetu mugomo wotomhanya. Look things will be falling apart very soon for the Gucci. In Asia, you messed, South Africa, you messed up and back home in our beloved Zimbabwe, you are the enemy number one (1). So muchanyarira kupi, muchanyarira kupi.....Bhundu Boys ..waonekwa nevana waonekwa nevana......the end is nigh for Gucci. When the Robbers and Muggers kick the bucket, you have no where to go because all the holes have been closed for you. Try to go Down South now or tomorrow, they will kick or beat you up. You know ama South Africans wena. You acquired all the riches through the missing US 15 billion and now splashing it by buying modern cars, houses everywhere. Remember the days of Pinochet and his wife. Where did it go............? be forewarned amai Goreraza. The time is soon approaching and yesterday you donated used panties to Zimbos in Manicaland...A first lady for that matter...Shuu....baba vangu Moyo iwe..Varozvi vakapera nenda iwe...varidzi venyika iwe...Tashaya vakomana.

Clemence Tashaya - 4 October 2017

I wonder who will be changing Mugabe's dippers who he will be attending the conference from an old people's home in South Africa.

Ndabazezwe Viki - 5 October 2017

You are more than welcome to be the first lady of Zimbabwe until death do not be bothered by this malcontents

Beloved First Lady - 5 October 2017

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