Granting Grace Mugabe immunity inconsistent with country's obligations: Gender Equality

Grace Mugabe, wife of President Robert Mugabe.
Grace Mugabe, wife of President Robert Mugabe.
Image: REUTERS

The Commission for Gender Equality said on Thursday South Africa's granting of diplomatic immunity to former Zimbabwe first lady Grace Mugabe following her alleged assault of a young woman in Johannesburg last year violated the country's obligation to impose penal sanctions on those convicted of violence against women.

The commission was making submissions in the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday in an application brought by the Democratic Alliance and others to set aside the minister's decision.

The granting of diplomatic immunity to Mugabe meant that the National Prosecuting Authority could not attend to the case opened by Gabriella Engels‚ the woman allegedly assaulted by Mugabe at a hotel in Sandton in August last year.

AfriForum‚ which is also party to the application‚ is assisting Engels to launch a private prosecution against Mugabe.

Lerato Zikalala‚ for the commission‚ said the Constitution obliged the state to take reasonable steps to protect women from violence.

She said Engels‚ as a woman‚ formed part of a vulnerable group of society. She said women were far too often the victims of domestic assault‚ such as the one allegedly perpetrated by Mugabe.

Zikalala said South Africa had assumed international obligations to ensure justice for victims of gender violence‚ to ensure that victims of violence had access to effective remedies and that alleged perpetrators like Mugabe were investigated and prosecuted.

She said following these obligations‚ South Africa should not be protecting alleged perpetrators.

Zikalala said granting Mugabe diplomatic immunity meant Engels did not have access to effective remedies.

"This is inconsistent with our international law obligations‚" Zikalala said.

The matter continues.

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