The wife of Zimbabwe’s president has been accused of assaulting a young woman at an upscale Johannesburg hotel, and local media reported that she was due to appear in court on Tuesday.
It was not immediately clear where Grace Mugabe was. Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula said in a video posted by local broadcaster eNCA that she had handed herself over to police. But a police spokesman, Vishnu Naidoo, later said no arrest had been made and police were talking with the suspect’s lawyers. He would not name the suspect, saying she had not yet appeared in court.
The case draws yet more attention to the increasingly outspoken wife of the world’s oldest head of state, 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe. Last month she challenged her husband publicly for the first time to name a successor, positioning herself as a possibility as his advanced age takes a toll ahead of next year’s election.
Twenty-year-old model Gabriella Engels has accused Grace Mugabe of assaulting her Sunday night while she was visiting Mugabe’s sons in a hotel room in an upscale Johannesburg suburb. She claims the first lady’s bodyguards stood by and watched as Mugabe attacked her.
Engels posted several photos on social media showing a gash in her forehead, which she called a result of the alleged encounter.
“She flipped and just kept beating me with the plug. Over and over,” Engels told local news channel News24. “I had no idea what was going on. I was surprised . I needed to crawl out of the room before I could run away.”
Engels told local radio station 702 that “I had no clue who this woman was when she started beating me.”
Police confirmed that a 20-year-old woman registered “a case of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm” on Monday, but said the suspect could not be named as she had not yet appeared in court.
“The investigation into this case has already reached an advanced stage,” a police statement on Tuesday said.
It was unclear whether Mugabe would qualify for diplomatic immunity in South Africa if charges are brought against her. The police are considering the implications of the case, the police minister said.
There was no immediate comment by Zimbabwe’s government or ruling party. Zimbabwean press reported earlier this week that Mugabe, 52, was in South Africa seeking medical attention.