Grace Mugabe, wife of President Robert Mugabe, addresses a rally of the ruling ZANU (PF)
JOHANNESBURG - 15 August 2017: South African police were negotiating with Grace Mugabe's lawyers on Tuesday to get the wife of the Zimbabwean president to turn herself in to face charges of assaulting a model, a senior police source said.
South African police minister Fikile Mbalula had said earlier in the day the Zimbabwean first lady had already handed herself in to police and would appear in court shortly, but that information later appeared to have been premature.
Twenty-year-old Gabriella Engels told South African media Grace had attacked her while the model was visiting the Mugabes' sons Robert and Chatunga at a hotel in Johannesburg's upmarket Sandton district on Sunday.
There was no immediate public comment on the case from Grace, 52, a possible successor to her husband President Robert Mugabe, 93, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980.
"One cannot be a fugitive for not appearing at a court to which they have not been summoned & when they have not been charged of any crime!" Grace's close ally and higher education minister Jonathan Moyo tweeted, without elaborating.
Confusion arose on Tuesday afternoon when the magistrates' court where Grace had been expected to be formally charged closed for the day without her appearing.
"The negotiations for her to hand herself in are still going on. We are at a point where we cannot effect an arrest yet," the police source said. "We will cross that bridge when we get there."
The source said Grace had earlier agreed to hand herself over at 10 a.m. local time but failed to do so.
The source said police were investigating a charge of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.Asked if Grace was now considered a fugitive, the source said that was not the case at this stage.
"I don't know, I haven't seen her," the source said when asked if she was still in South Africa.
Another source in South Africa's prosecuting authority said Mugabe had breached an agreement to surrender herself ahead of an expected court hearing on Tuesday afternoon.
"They (the police) had an agreement that she hand herself over, but she never did," the source said.
South African media said Grace had been in the country to have an injured foot examined. It was unclear whether she was traveling on a diplomatic passport.
"SHE WILL BE CHARGED"
On whether she could be arrested despite having diplomatic immunity, minister Mbalula said: "All those implications will be taken into consideration." He then added: "She will be charged."
A Zimbabwean intelligence source said Grace had been traveling on an ordinary non-diplomatic passport and was in South Africa on personal business.
The News24 website quoted Engels' 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. "I am a model, with this scar over my face my whole career is ruined," she said.
It was unclear what triggered the incident.
"I just want justice," Engels told Talk Radio 702.
"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."
Mugabe's two sons were kicked out of the Regent luxury apartment complex in Sandton last month after an incident in the middle of the night, staff at the complex told Reuters.
Regent manager Imelda Fincham did not elaborate but confirmed the pair had left. "They're no longer here," she said.
In 2009, a press photographer in Hong Kong said Grace and her bodyguard had assaulted him. Police there said the incident was reported but that no charges were brought.
President Mugabe spoke at a public event marking Defence Forces Day in Harare on Tuesday, but did not mention Grace.
Grace was in the news in late July when she challenged her husband to name his preferred successor.
The issue of who will succeed Mugabe has deeply divided Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party. One faction supports Grace and the other Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is recovering in a South African hospital after he fell ill and was airlifted from Zimbabwe.