AfriForum denounces Grace Mugabe immunity plans


Gabriella Engels claimed to have been assaulted by Grace Mugabe.

JOHANNESBURG - South African rights group AfriForum, which is advising a 20-year-old model who has accused Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe of assault, denounced as a "disgrace" on Friday reported plans by Pretoria to grant Mugabe diplomatic immunity.

"The government has two responsibilities: one, to protect its own citizens and two, to act according to the law.

"The granting of diplomatic immunity would transgress the law," AfriForum chief executive Kallie Kriel told Reuters.

A senior government source told Reuters that Pretoria was going to let Mugabe leave the country and return to Harare in the interests of avoiding a diplomatic rift.

South African police have put border posts on "red alert" to prevent Mugabe fleeing and said she will not receive special treatment.

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The source said there would obviously be implications for relations with Zimbabwe.

"Sadly the other countries in the region are watching us and how we are going to act," the source said, asking not to be named.

"What is likely to happen is that she will be allowed to go back home, and then we announce that we've granted diplomatic immunity and wait for somebody to challenge us."

The source acknowledged the view widely held by legal experts that Mugabe is not entitled to diplomatic immunity because she was in South Africa for medical treatment, and said her immunity might be challenged in court at a later date.

Zimbabwe's 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe arrived early in Pretoria for a regional southern African summit this week to help resolve his wife's legal problems, the source said.

Grace Mugabe is expected to attend the summit as part of a "first spouses" programme.

A lawyer for Mugabe identified by Reuters refused to comment.