Zimbabwe’s first lady stands accused of bursting into a hotel room and beating Gabriella Engels with an electrical cord.
Zimbabwe’s first lady and possible future leader Grace Mugabe has denied assaulting a model with an electric cable, claiming she herself was the victim of the attack.
In a court testimony obtained by Reuters, Ms Mugabe said she was considering filing attempted murder charges after “intoxicated and unhinged” model Gabriella Engels attacked her with a knife.
The 52-year-old said she had first acted to save her two sons, Chatunga and Robert Junior, who were “in trouble with a drunken young woman”.
The incident in question occurred on 13 August, in a hotel room in Johannesburg.
Ms Engels, 20, alleges Ms Mugabe burst into the room and began to beat her with an electrical extension cord.
Photographs taken soon afterwards showed a bloody gash on the model’s forehead.
Speaking to local media following the incident, Ms Engels said she had been “chilling in a hotel room” with two friends, in a different room to Ms Mugabe’s sons.”She came in and started hitting us. She flipped and just kept beating me with the plug, over and over,” the model claimed.
Tweeting on 14 August, Ms Engels denied she had done anything to harm Zimbabwe’s first lady.
“She split my head open in three places. With an extension cord (she) used the plug to hit me,” she wrote.
Ms Engels also said the injuries would affect her ability to work: “The front of my forehead is busted open. I’m a model and I make my money based on my looks.”
Ms Mugabe returned home days later. She has been granted diplomatic immunity from South Africa, meaning she avoids any immediate prosecution. Leaked Zimbabwean intelligence files showed her husband, Robert Mugabe, had asked South African President Jacob Zuma to resolve the situation “amicably”. Mr Zuma denies he played any role in the case.
The first lady is one of the favourites to become president after the death of her husband, Robert Mugabe, who is the world’s oldest head of state and has been in power since 1980. Ms Mugabe has said before that in some ways she is already president, as the couple make decisions together.