JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Dr Grace Mugabe, has denied assaulting South African model Gabriella Engels with an electric cable in a Johannesburg hotel suite last month, saying an “intoxicated and unhinged” Ms Engels attacked her with a knife.
55Gabriella Engels looks on during a media conference in Pretoria, South Africa (Themba Hadebe/AP)
In a previously unreported Aug 17 deposition seen by Reuters, Dr Mugabe countered 20-year-old Ms Engels’ version, portraying herself as the victim after intervening on behalf of her adult sons Chatunga and Robert Junior, who were “in trouble with a drunken young woman”.
Image Credit: File Photo
The statement said Dr Grace Mugabe, 52 and a contender to replace her 93-year-old husband as Zimbabwe’s president, was thinking about filing attempted murder charges.
According to Ms Engels, an irate Dr Mugabe burst into the room where she was waiting with two friends to meet Mr Chatunga Mugabe on Aug 13 and started laying into her with an electric cable.
Photographs taken by her mother soon after the incident showed a gash to Ms Engels’ forehead and head. She also had bruising on her thighs.
In her deposition, Dr Mugabe dismissed Ms Engels’ version as “malicious allegations” and said she had been attacked after going to help her sons.
“She was worried about them and went to see them at their hotel suite,” the statement said. “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.”
“Security was left with no other option but to remove Ms Engels from the hotel suite,” it continued.
The statement also alleged that Ms Engels had been in a fight with other women at Johannesburg’s Taboo nightclub the previous evening and suggested that may have been the cause of her injuries.
Afriforum, an Afrikaans civil society group acting on behalf of Ms Engels, denied both accusations.
“Gabriella never attacked Grace Mugabe in any way and she did not participate in the fight at Taboo,” Afriforum said. “It is clear that Grace Mugabe is desperately trying to escape responsibility for her own violent behaviour by using lies to falsely portray the victim in this case as the perpetrator.”
South Africa granted Dr Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity, allowing her to evade immediate prosecution for assault, although Ms Engels and Afriforum have challenged that decision, saying Dr Mugabe was not in South Africa on official business.
They also argued that assault was a “grave crime” that was not covered by diplomatic immunity laws.
The decision to let Dr Grace Mugabe return home caused a row in South Africa, with the opposition Democratic Alliance also going to court to overturn the immunity.