6 October 2017

South Africa: Zimbabwean Embassy Withdraws From Grace Mugabe Case After Receiving Threats

Photo: The Herald
First Lady Grace Mugabe chats with daughter Bona (file photo).

In a surprising twist in the matter involving Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe, the country's embassy has decided to withdraw from the matter as an intervening party claiming its lawyer had received threats.

The lawyer representing the embassy, Simba Chitando, told the media that: "I have received instructions from consul general of the Zimbabwean embassy which reads: 'I have read the memorandum by Adv (Simba) Chitando our counsel of record and have personally seen various threats made against him while representing the Zimbabwean embassy.'

"The conducts of various individuals in this matter has made the Zimbabwean embassy and its future involvement in this matter undesirable.

"The Zimbabwean embassy, regardless of the outcome of the proceeding, shall no longer participate in these hearings," said Chitando on Friday.

Chitando, who did not clarify whether these were death threats, was responding to acting judge Harshila Koovertjie's short order - in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria - in the application on whether Mugabe should be served court papers at the Zimbabwean embassy in SA or in person in her home country.

Costs

Koovertjie said the matter should be referred to the opposed court. She said costs in this matter had been reserved.

AfriForum's Willie Spies said essentially, there was no order granted with regards to the arguments that were brought before the court on September 19.

He explained that the Zimbabwean embassy was granted seven days to file an affidavit confirming whether they represented Mugabe or not.

AfriForum will have seven days thereafter to respond to the embassy's affidavit, he said. The matter will then be argued at the opposed motion court.

Responding to the shocking news of the threats, Spies said it was "surprising".

"I have not heard of it [the threats]. That is absolute nonsense and I think that it is just an effort to taint the process and to put them in a position to attack the process later and I cannot believe that it is possible.

"Obviously, if it is true, then the matter needs to be investigated. But then I would like to see whether there were any criminal charges laid at the police station.

"The only criminal charge that was laid at the police was the criminal charge laid by [Gabriella] Engels against Grace Mugabe. That is the only criminal charge that was laid."

He explained that the embassy went to court on September 19 in an "absolute irregular fashion" to oppose an application that in normal course is not an opposed application.

"After they made this huge meal of the whole process, they come and announce today that they are withdrawing all of their efforts."

Delay tactics

Spies said to him, it looked like the embassy was using delay tactics.

"The mere involvement of the embassy from the onset was to frustrate and delay the process to ensure that justice is delayed. Fortunately now they have withdrawn which makes the process further, easier."

Spies said because the order was not granted yet, no one had received what they wanted.

"The matter was postponed for a hearing on the opposed motions roll..."

He said the process was not to "take on Grace Mugabe".

"The issue is to serve justice and to make sure that issues are brought before the court... and not [dealt with] by politicians in positions of power...

"The ultimate goal is to bring a review application, which is a civil proceeding, in order to set aside the immunity that was granted to Grace Mugabe so that criminal and civil proceedings can continue."

Mugabe was granted diplomatic immunity despite allegedly assaulting South African model, Gabriella Engels with an extension cord on August 13.

Mugabe reportedly denied that she assaulted Engels, 20, after she allegedly found her with one of her two sons, Chatunga Bellarmine, in a hotel room in Sandton.

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