PRETORIA — The family of Johannesburg model Gabriella Engels, who made headlines in 2017 after laying assault charges against Zimbabwe’s then-first lady Grace Mugabe, on Friday said they will continue to press for charges and not money.
Speaking to the African News Agency (ANA) at the North Gauteng High Court, Gabriella’s mother Debbie said a cash amount had been made available by the Mugabes, but that the option would never be considered.
“You can’t buy justice. You cannot just give a sum of money and my daughter is supposed to heal and just accept. At the end of the day, my daughter still doesn’t know why this woman (Grace Mugabe) came and attacked her from nowhere,” said Engels.
“All the stories that have been circulating, that my daughter attacked Grace, it is utter lies.
“There are witnesses that were in the room. They say this woman just barged into the room and hit her (Gabriella). We want to know why she did that.”
Engels insisted that the financial offer would not silence her family.
“We will definitely be continuing with the criminal case. At the end of the day, all we want is for Grace Mugabe to come and stand in the dock,” she said.
“She must come to answer as to why she attacked my daughter in the first place.”
Engels said if, in the end, the swanky former first lady gets sentenced for the assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm charge opened by Gabriella last year, “it will be a bonus”.
Earlier on Friday, the North Gauteng High Court reserved judgment in the main opposition Democratic Alliance’s application to have diplomatic immunity granted to Grace set aside.
On Thursday, Advocate Hilton Epstein, senior council representing the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco), argued that the South African government did not grant diplomatic immunity to Mugabe, but only recognised it after the 2017 assault charge.
Epstein argued that Pretoria had not conferred the diplomatic standing, but that Dirco had only upheld the fact of existing immunity for then president Robert Mugabe’s spouse.
“I submit the following — it is clear this was happening over a short period of time.
“The department of foreign affairs [international relations] was dealing with this urgently, the conference [Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit] was taking place, heads of state were here and the minister was faced with the complaint and sought advice,” said Epstein.
“She sought for advice from the legal advisors. She got advice from the legal advisors.
“Ultimately there is one factor here: it’s not a discretion, it’s not an opinion, it’s a fact which is whether spousal immunity exists or does not exist.”
He said the then-Dirco minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane did the right thing by “recognising” Grace diplomatic immunity.