Initially I had thought it wise to abstain from commenting on the controversial assault case involving the First Lady of Zimbabwe, Ms Grace Mugabe, in which she is being accused of allegedly assaulting Gabriella Engels, an aspiring model and acquaintance to Ms Mugabe’s two sons, in a Sandton Hotel on Sunday the 13th.
It was alleged by the 20-year-old victim that on Sunday evening Grace Mugabe assaulted her with an electric extension cord after finding her in the company of her two sons, Robert Jr and Chatunga, at the Capital 20 West Hotel in Sandton. Gabriella Engels claims that Ms Mugabe entered the room brandishing extension cord, and in a fit of rage, started to assault her multiple times, using the cord, while her bodyguards stood by watching. She sustained multiple injuries, including a facial laceration that was clearly visible on the pictures she posted on social media. Miss Engels opened a case of assault against the Zimbabwean First Lady at the Sandton Police Station later that evening.
In all honesty, this is not the first instance in which the First Lady of Zimbabwe has been accused of, or implicated in, issues of a violent nature.
In 2009, it was reported that she, expressing furious irritation, had assaulted a British journalist in Hong Kong after he had tried photograph her. That same year, while in VIP transit at an airport in Kuala Lumpur, Grace wandered off to the wrong area and while being redirected by airport officials, refused to go through a second check-in process. In the brief altercation that followed, it is alleged that Ms Mugabe ended up assaulting an airport official, grabbing him by the collar while reminding him that she was the wife of the president of Zimbabwe.
There are many cases of this nature involving Ms Mugabe and members of the media, and other ordinary citizens. Therefore, the recent case involving Gabriella Engels was not particularly surprising. Those who know her personally and have been at the receiving end of her anger have christened her ‘Dr Stop It’, for obvious reasons.
Zimbabweans both home and abroad, including myself, tend to stay away from giving their opinions in matters that include the First Family due to the fear of being victimised. The Mugabe name holds so much power in the country, so much such that criticism of any kind is taboo and could lend one in serious trouble. The extent of this influence is not limited to the borders of Zimbabwe itself, it goes beyond and is carried subconsciously in the psyche of most ordinary Zimbabweans.
They are a family whose image and reputation in the country is constructed and tightly controlled by the state media and other government apparatuses. Any information from private institutions that may be contrary to what the state media portrays is immediately considered subversive and might warrant intimidation of some kind.
This latest case, however, has become rather interesting especially with the involvement of the minority rights movement, AfriForum, who have expressed the will to represent Gabrielle Engels in the prosecution of Grace Mugabe.
The announcement by Advocate Gerrie Nel, who runs a private prosecuting agency funded by AfriForum, at the AfriForum building in Centurion, has brought in a new perspective to the case, one that is of greater significance than the personal safety of any writer.
Nel made the announcement while expressing concern that the prosecution of Grace Mugabe might be distorted by political interference. This is in light with the opinion that is rapidly gaining popularity, one that suggests that Grace Mugabe might not be fully prosecuted because she holds diplomatic immunity. Therefore, the willingness to step in and aid of Engels is in the interest of upholding justice, according to Nels.
This is where it gets rather puzzling. AfriForum is a known, generously funded, right wing Afrikaner Nationalist, white supremacist movement that seeks to uphold and maintain the interests of a sector of the Afrikaner population in South Africa, many whom are pro-Apartheid.
Their express of interest in this matter is puzzling in the sense that they have remained mum on issues of a similar nature that have occurred recently. If their only objective is to see that the law is applied without regard for the political stature of Grace Mugabe, then why have they not expressed similar concerns in the case against Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Mr Mduduzi Manana, for instance, who also holds the same diplomatic stature as that held by Grace Mugabe?
AfriForum claims to condemn violence of any nature, and yet they are not being equally vocal about the recent wave of possibly racially motivated attacks against Black citizens at numerous eating outlets, and other locations, across the country.
Their bid to prevent the politicalization of Grace Mugabe’s case actually seems more like a politicalization of the case than anything else. It suggests that there is a serious flaw in the South African justice system, implying that it can be held hostage by, and can be manipulated to put in motions the agendas of, well-funded interest groups. Are then outrightly saying that the South African justice can be two faced, that it can be severely scrutinized only in particular cases, and then be allowed to function normally elsewhere?
AfriForum, in its apparent pursuit to see that the justice is applied fairly, has failed to protect those who might also have needed their assistance. Their failure to actively act in such matters such as, for instance, the case of the African farm worker who was stuffed into a coffin by two Afrikaner farmers, is an issue of immediate concern. It implies that they render their services and concerns selectively, and only act when they stand to gain mileage that furthers the interests of its handlers.
They have not been consistent in their condemnation of the culture of violence rife in many sectors of South African society, only choosing to step up when the Afrikaner rights are apparently under threat. This rather suggests a near-fascistic fascination with the importance and superiority of the Afrikaner, putting AfriForum closely under the same light as the neo-Nazi, white nationalist groups currently unleashing chaos in the small U.S town of Charlottesville, Virginia. This comes after anti-fascist protesters had called for the removal of the statue of General Thomas Jackson of the Confederate States of America.
This in no way an attempt to absolve Grace Mugabe of the barbarity and criminality of her act. A person of her stature and position in society – a mother of the nation – is expected to hold and present herself in an admirable and dignified manner, a manner which the youth of Africa in general, and Zimbabwe in particular, can look up to and emulate. Her actions have cast a dark light on the integrity of the nation, and have furthered the shame of being Zimbabwean.
It is simply an effort to understand the true reason why AfriForum, and by extension Afrikaner nationalists, have shown an interest in the case against Grace Mugabe.
Outside of her association with Robert Mugabe, Grace has shown herself to be prone to acting irrationally and on impulse. This characteristic trait of hers has allowed possibly opportunistic elements such as AfriForum, to hijack the process of her prosecution.
The involvement of AfriForum, given its past inconsistencies and outright nationalist tendencies, clearly make the matter not about upholding justice. One can almost say that this interest is stemming out of Grace’s proximity to Robert Mugabe, a self-professed proponent of African sovereignty, who is understandably a not favourite of pro-Apartheid, white supremacist groups such as AfriForum.
It leads one to ask whether it is Grace Mugabe or the very idea of black sovereignty embodied by Robert Mugabe that is being pushed to the dock here? Could it be that the assault is being used as a matchstick to start a fire many have wanted for so long to see burning? Only time will tell. However justice and the law should not be used to further the unknown intentions of problematic civil groups. They should be impartial and allowed to operate and function normal, and not prone to pressure from biased outside elements.