South Africa’s top policeman confirmed on Wednesday that Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe failed to appear at a court hearing to answer accusations she assaulted a model in an upmarket Johannesburg hotel.
Gabriella Engels, 20, told South African media Grace had attacked her after the model had gone to see the Mugabes’ sons Robert and Chatunga at a hotel on Sunday.
“Our position was that she must go to court. The whole day yesterday we were waiting for her,” acting National Police Commissioner, Lesetja Mothiba, told parliament’s police portfolio committee in Cape Town.
“We were expecting a statement from her,” he said, according to the domestic ANA news agency.
NAN reports that Grace returned home on Tuesday from South Africa after failing to turn herself in to police in Johannesburg to face accusations of assaulting a model in a hotel room.
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.
Zimbabwe government sources confirmed she had returned home.
“Yes, she is back in the country. We don’t know where this issue of assault charges is coming from,” said a senior government official, who declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
A second official also confirmed that Grace had returned, saying “she is around now” and accused the media of a plot to tarnish the first family’s name.
Earlier, South African police had been negotiating with Grace’s lawyers to get her to turn herself in to face charges of assault in a court room, a senior police source said.
Mbalula said on Tuesday that Grace had already handed herself in to police and would appear in court shortly.
In the afternoon, the magistrates’ court where police said Grace would be formally charged closed for the day without her appearing.
The police source said Grace had earlier agreed to hand herself over at 10am, but failed to do so.
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.
The model said: “When Grace entered, I had no idea who she was. She walked in with an extension cord and just started beating me with it.
“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 added: “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 asked to leave the Regent luxury apartment complex in Sandton in July 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.
Fincham added: “They’re no longer here.”