Police in South Africa are searching for Zimbabwe’s first lady, Grace Mugabe, over allegations that she assaulted a woman in a Johannesburg hotel.
A South African police spokesman said Mugabe’s whereabouts where unknown, correcting the police minister, who earlier claimed that she had handed herself in to police.
Mugabe, 52, is alleged to have attacked Gabriella Engels, 20, with an extension cord, wounding her forehead and the back of her head.
Police minister Fikile Mbalula originally said Mugabe had walked into a police station on Tuesday, and that she would appear at Wynberg magistrates court on Tuesday afternoon.
However, police spokesman Vishnu Naidoo later told AFP: “The negotiations over the suspect handing herself over have not concluded and our investigations have not finalised. The minister learned later that it just didn’t materalise as it was supposed to.
“We have identified a suspect but she hasn’t handed herself over yet. We do not know her whereabouts at this stage.”
Journalist Simon Allison tweeted that Grace Mugabe’s motorcade had been spotted coming back from the airport in Harare.
Pictures on social media appear to show Engels bleeding in Capital 20 West hotel in Johannesburg upmarket district of Sandton after the alleged attack on Sunday.
Mugabe allegedly arrived with bodyguards at the hotel on Sunday and accused Engels of living with her sons, Robert and Chatunga, both in their 20s, who are based in the city.
“We were chilling in a hotel room, and [the sons] were in the room next door. She came in and started hitting us,” Engels, a model, was quoted as saying by the TimesLIVE website.
“The front of my forehead is busted open. I’m a model and I make my money based on my looks.”
Mugabe has two sons and a daughter with the Zimbabwean president.
South Africa’s foreign affairs spokesman Clayson Monyela said Mugabe’s trip was “a private visit so government cannot get involved if an alleged crime is committed”.
Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, a provincial minister in Gauteng province, told Jacaranda FM that the case should be pursued through the courts. “We hope that it will send a strong message to all leaders who abuse their power and assault innocent people in our country,” she said.
Mugabe’s two sons were kicked out of the Regent luxury apartment complex in Sandton a month ago 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. “They’re no longer here,” she said.
Grace Mugabe regularly speaks at rallies in Zimbabwe and is seen as a potential successor to her increasingly frail husband.
In 2009, a press photographer in Hong Kong said Mugabe and her bodyguard had assaulted him. Police there said the incident was reported but that no charges were brought.
Grace was in the news again in late July when she challenged her president husband to name his preferred successor.
The issue of who will succeed Mugabe has deeply divided Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party. One faction supports Grace and the other Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is recovering in a South African hospital after he fell ill and was airlifted from Zimbabwe.
Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this articlePost published in: Featured