Gov’t mulls fate of Mugabe's wife after assault claim
In a tit-for-tat dispute, Zimbabwe blocked flights by South Africa's government-owned airline yesterday amid tensions over allegations that Zimbabwe's first lady assaulted a young model at a luxury hotel in Johannesburg.
Zimbabwe's action followed the grounding last Friday evening of an Air Zimbabwe flight at Johannesburg's main international airport after South African authorities concluded it was not in compliance with civil aviation rules.
Both countries said they imposed restrictions because planes did not have a "foreign operator's permit."
South Africa's government, meanwhile, said it had not yet decided whether to grant the Zimbabwe government's request for diplomatic immunity for Grace Mugabe, who has not commented on the allegations against her.
The outspoken wife of President Robert Mugabe has been criticised for a fiery temper and lavish shopping expeditions, but her rising political profile has some asking whether she is manoeuvring to succeed her husband.
There was no sign of Grace Mugabe at a regional summit that Zimbabwe's 93-year-old president attended yesterday in South Africa's capital, Pretoria.
Twenty-year-old model Gabriella Engels has claimed that Grace Mugabe on Sunday night whipped her with an extension cord, cutting her forehead. Lawyers for Engels have threatened to go to court if immunity is granted.
Foreign ministry spokesman Nelson Kgwete said in a text message to The Associated Press that South Africa was still considering the request.