Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe has denied reports that she assaulted a South African model in a Johannesburg hotel suite last month, saying she acted in self-defense after she was threatened with a knife.
Mugabe is giving her side of the story after model Gabrielle Engels claimed that the first lady went on a violent rampage and attacked her with an electrical cord at a luxury hotel where Engels was waiting to meet one of Mugabe’s sons, according to The Citizen. Photos taken after the alleged incident show a deep gash on the model’s forehead.
In a deposition from Aug. 17, the 52-year-old leader denied Engel’s account, saying she was only protecting herself from the “drunken” woman after intervening on behalf of her two sons, Chatunga and Robert Jr.
“She [Mugabe] was worried about her sons and went to see them at their hotel suite,” the statement read. “Upon her arrival, Ms. Engels, who was intoxicated and unhinged, attacked Dr. Grace Mugabe with a knife after she was asked to leave. Security was left with no other option but to remove Ms. Engels from the hotel suite.”
The statement went on to say that the first lady was considering filing attempted-murder charges against the young woman. It also alleged that Engels had sustained her forehead injuries after getting into a fight with other women at the Taboo nightclub in Johannesburg the night before.
Afriforum, a civil society group representing Engels, refuted the first lady’s allegations and accused her of “desperately trying to escape responsibility for her own violent behavior by using lies to falsely portray the victim in this case as the perpetrator.”
“Gabriella never attacked Grace Mugabe in any way and she did not participate in the fight at Taboo,” Afriforum told Reuters.
Mugabe was able to evade prosecution for the alleged assault after South Africa, to the dismay of many, granted her diplomatic immunity, The Guardian reported. Engels and Afriforum have questioned the legal basis for that decision, arguing that the first lady was visiting South Africa not on official business but to seek medical treatment.
Mugabe has a bit of a reputation for her angry outbursts. The New York Times reported that the Zimbabwean leader was also granted immunity by Hong Kong in 2009 after she was accused of attacking a Chinese photographer who was taking photos of her while she shopped. The Johannesburg hotel incident makes the second time she has been able to escape arrest.
Mugabe is a contender to succeed her ailing 93-year-old husband, Robert Mugabe, for president of Zimbabwe.