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Grace Mugabe, the first lady of Zimbabwe, returned home last night from South Africa after being granted diplomatic immunity after being accused of assaulting a model with an extension cable in a Johannesburg hotel. However last night lawyers announced they would launch a legal challenge this week to the immunity which allowed Mr Mugabe to escape facing any charges of assault. The immunity, granted after she arrived in South Africa more then a week ago on private business was a political decision not a legal one said Lorna Ferguson, a South African lawyer. “It was irrational and in contravention of South African laws for her to be granted immunity in the face of what were serious criminal charges laid against her for alleged assault a week ago. Gabriella Engels is seen with an injury to her forehead Credit: Debbie Engels via AP "I consulted the law and with a veteran South Africa foreign affairs expert who said that immunity cannot be granted retrospectively.” Mrs Mugabe is accused of assaulting and injuring Gabriella Engels, a 20-year-old model who was visiting Mrs Mugabe’s two sons, Robert Jnr and Chatunga in a top Johannesburg hotel a week ago. Ms Engels laid charges against Mrs Mugabe after she had her face stitched up in hospital. Mrs Mugabe avoided going to court and was rescued when her husband, President Robert Mugabe, arrived in South Africa to attend a regional conference and arranged immunity for his wife which was officially announced on Saturday. Grace Mugabe, shown here in October 2014, returned home from South Africa Credit: JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images Ms Engels case has been taken up by a non Governmental organisation Afriforum which says it will go to court for the injured woman re the immunity, and will also charge Mrs Mugabe in both criminal and civil cases. President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace, sneaked out of South Africa via South Africa’s main military airport near the capital Pretoria, in the very early hours of Sunday morning. Alex Magisa, a senior Zimbabwean and legal academic at the University of Kent, said one of the tragedies of the Grace Mugabe assault case in South Africa is that few people in Zimbabwe know about it. No mention of the case has been made on the only TV station and all radio stations and daily newspapers it controls. "Much of the 67 percent of people who live in rural areas have to rely on traditional sources (of information) which simply refused to cover the story. MUGABE TIMELINE "Few incidents illustrate the totalitarian face of the Zimbabwean regime as this current case involving Grace Mugabe’s embarrassing moment in South Africa where she allegedly beat up a young woman whom she found in the company of her two sons,” he said. Mrs Mugabe and various web sites and twitter feeds which support her in Zimbabwe say the first lady was attacked by Ms Engels. Ahead of Mrs Mugabe’s return home, South Africa and Zimbabwe seized and grounded passenger aircraft in Johannesburg and Harare. Only after diplomatic immunity for Mrs Mugabe was gazetted did South Africa’s civil aviation authority allow the Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767 it had grounded early Saturday, to take off after midnight on Sunday. Harare had retaliated by seizing a South African Airways aircraft at the Harare International Airport on Saturday and refused to clear it for take-off until after the Mugabe’s were on their way back to Harare. Flights between the two countries have now resumed.
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