By Gift Phiri
First Lady Grace Mugabe could be banned from ever entering South Africa if that country’s powerful trade union federation and opposition groups get their way in their bids to have the decision to grant her diplomatic immunity overturned.
Grace was granted diplomatic immunity by the South African government last Saturday after spending close to a week holed in Johannesburg as police wanted to arrest her over allegations she severely assaulted a 20-year-old model Gabriella Engels whom she found with her sons — Robert Junior and Chatunga Bellarmine – at a luxury hotel in Sandton on August 13.
Powerful trade union federation, Cosatu wants Grace to be declared a prohibited immigrant (PI) — a decree that would mean if she ever sets her foot in South Africa, she would be swiftly deported.
“Ms Grace Mugabe should be banned from ever coming into this country,” said Sizwe Pamla, the Cosatu national spokesperson in a damning statement yesterday.
“Our government’s camouflaged surrender and cowardice is shameful. We are turning into a Banana republic very fast because of our government’s misdirected idealism.”
This comes as South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, called for a parliamentary inquiry into South Africa’s decision to let Grace leave.
Pamla said the decision by the Department of International Relations minister Nkoana-Mashabane was “disgraceful and a camouflaged surrender.”
“This makes a mockery of our rule of law and the principle of equality before the law. It is clear now that the citizens of this country cannot be guaranteed protection by this government.
“This ill-thought decision is proof that our so called exceptionalism is an amount of scale, not of quality anymore.
“While we agree that government has every right to maintain healthy relations with our neighbouring countries but this should not be done at the expense of South African citizens. We cannot allow the political anarchy and vandalism of the Mugabe-led administration in Zimbabwe to be imported into our country,” fumed Pamla.
Cosatu is considered a strong ally of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) as they are part of an alliance which also involves the South African Communist Party (SACP), a relationship which dates back to the struggle for South Africa’s independence during the apartheid era.
The demand by the powerful trade union federation to declare Grace a PI leaves the ANC in a spot of bother, given that the ruling party needs Cosatu’s vote-gathering ability, especially among the poor, to retain control of many cities and provinces in the forthcoming polls in Africa’s largest economy.
The civil rights watchdog AfriForum legal representative Willie Spies said “the granting of diplomatic immunity to her is however not the end of the matter.”
Spies said AfriForum has already given notice that the organisation will assist Engels in bringing a review application in order to set aside the decision to grant diplomatic immunity to Grace.
“The fight for justice for Zimbabwe and for Miss Engels will therefore go ahead until it is won,” Spies said.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an alliance of 300 civic groups, said Grace’s alleged violence in South Africa was part of a growing trend made possible by a sense of impunity.
“We hold that her decision to seek diplomatic immunity was baseless and unwarranted and only serves to entrench a culture of impunity,” the coalition said.
“Grace Mugabe’s violence continues to bring disrepute to our nationhood as Zimbabweans compromising our stature in the Sadc region, Africa and the global community.” Daily News