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Zimbabwe's first lady accused of assault in South Africa


Grace Mugabe was due to appear in court (AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Grace Mugabe was due to appear in court (AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Grace Mugabe was due to appear in court (AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

The wife of Zimbabwe's president has been accused of assaulting a young woman at a hotel in South Africa.

It was not immediately clear where Grace Mugabe was. Minister of police Fikile Mbalula said in a video posted by local broadcaster eNCA that she had handed herself over to police.

But a police spokesman, Vishnu Naidoo, later said no arrest had been made and police were talking with the suspect's lawyers. He would not name the suspect.

The case draws yet more attention to the increasingly outspoken wife of the world's oldest head of state, 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe.

Last month she challenged her husband publicly for the first time to name a successor, positioning herself as a possibility as his advanced age takes a toll ahead of next year's election.

Twenty-year-old model Gabriella Engels has accused Mrs Mugabe of assaulting her on Sunday night while she was visiting mutual friends of Mugabe's sons at a hotel room in an upscale Johannesburg suburb. She claims the first lady's bodyguards stood by and watched as Mrs Mugabe attacked her.

Ms Engels posted several photos on social media showing a gash in her forehead, which she claimed was a result of the alleged encounter.

"She flipped and just kept beating me with the plug. Over and over," Ms Engels told local news channel News24. "I had no idea what was going on. I was surprised. I needed to crawl out of the room before I could run away."

Police confirmed that a 20-year-old woman registered "a case of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm" on Monday, but said the suspect could not be named as she had not yet appeared in court.

"The investigation into this case has already reached an advanced stage," a police statement on Tuesday said.

It was unclear whether Mrs Mugabe would qualify for diplomatic immunity if charges are brought against her.

There was no immediate comment by Zimbabwe's government or ruling party.

It was not clear on Tuesday night whether Mrs Mugabe was still in South Africa or had returned to Zimbabwe.

"If she went back, I just hope the police can do something to get her back," Ms Engels said. "I don't want her to get away with this."

She said she had recently met the Mugabe brothers and that mutual friends invited her to hang out at the hotel. She said the brothers were not in the room the night of the alleged assault.

"I don't know how she got into the hotel room. We didn't know she was Robert Mugabe's wife," Ms Engels said. "I only found out outside when blood was rushing down my face and back."