Zimbabwe’s first lady, Grace Mugabe, has returned home from South Africa after failing to turn herself in to police in Johannesburg to face charges of assaulting a model in a hotel room.
There was no public comment on the case from Grace, 52, a possible successor to her husband President Robert Mugabe, 93. But Zimbabwe government sources confirmed she had returned home overnight.
“Yes, she is back in the country. We don’t know where this issue of assault charges is coming from,” a senior government official who declined to be named said.
A second official also confirmed that Grace had returned, saying “she is around now” and accused the media of a plot to tarnish the first family’s name.
Earlier, South African police had been negotiating with Grace’s lawyers to get her to turn herself in to face charges of assault, a senior police source said.
Twenty-year-old Gabriella Engels told South African media Grace had attacked her after the model had gone to see the Mugabes’ sons Robert and Chatunga at a hotel in Johannesburg’s upmarket Sandton district on Sunday.
Confusion surrounded the case. South African Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said early in the day Grace had already handed herself in to police and would appear in court shortly.
But in the afternoon, the Magistrates’ Court where Grace had been expected to be formally charged closed for the day without her appearing.
The police source said Grace had earlier agreed to hand herself over at 10am local time but failed to do so.
Asked if Grace was now considered a fugitive, the source said that was not the case at this stage.
“One cannot be a fugitive for not appearing at a court to which they have not been summoned and when they have not been charged of any crime,” Grace’s close ally and Zimbabwe’s Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo tweeted.
The News 24 website quoted Engels’s version of events in the hotel room. “When Grace entered, I had no idea who she was. She walked in with an extension cord and just started beating me with it,” the model said.
“She flipped and just kept beating me with the plug. Over and over. I had no idea what was going on. I was surprised . . . I needed to crawl out of the room before I could run away.”
News24 published a picture of what it said was Engels with a large gash in her forehead.
It was unclear what triggered the incident.
“She just completely lost it. I was hit all over my body. I have bruises all over my body . . . I have two open wounds at the back of my head as well,” Engels said. DPA