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Zimbabwe’s first lady disappears after being accused of assaulting South African model



By Peta Thornycroft and Peter Granitz

JOHANNESBURG — Mystery surrounded the whereabouts of Grace Mugabe Tuesday following an alleged assault on a South African model.

It was initially thought she may have returned to Zimbabwe but some reports suggested she had gone to a rented home in Johannesburg.

The South African minister for police indicated Mugabe, 52, was due to appear at Randburg magistrates’ court in the city after she was accused of launching a vicious attack on Gabriella Engels, 20, at a party in a Johannesburg hotel on Sunday night.

But court staff said they did not receive papers with charges and police later admitted they were unsure of Mugabe’s location and could not confirm if she was even in the country.

“She hasn’t handed herself over yet. We do not know her whereabouts at this stage,” Vishnu Naidoo, a police national spokesman, told reporters:  “As long as we don’t have a suspect in custody, we cannot say when they will appear in court.”Earlier in the day Fikile Mbalula, South Africa’s police minister, had said Mugabe was not arrested because she “cooperated and handed herself over to the police”.

Yesterday, officers were still negotiating with Mugabe’s lawyers as reports emerged that the wife of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president, may even have returned to Harare.

“Yes, she is back in the country. We don’t know where this issue of assault charges is coming from,” a senior Zimbabwean government official told Reuters.

The Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s main opposition party, said it would demand an inquiry into how Mugabe was able to leave the country – if she had – and whether Mbalula had “aided and abetted” her.

The apparent vanishing act came as further details emerged of the alleged assault on Sunday night.

Debbie Engels, Gabriella’s mother, told The Daily Telegraph her daughter was still “very upset”.

She said: “How do we know there will be justice in this case when she (Grace Mugabe) is powerful and we are just ordinary people?”

Engels claimed her daughter only managed to escape even more serious injuries because she was rescued by a man at the hotel where Mugabe’s sons, Robert Jr. and Chatunga Bellarmine, 21, rent rooms.

“There were about 10 or 12 guards there, with that woman, (Mugabe) at that time. It was dark, my daughter told me. They did nothing to help her when that woman was attacking my daughter,” she said.


Model Gabriella Engels shows an injury to her forehead. 


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