The civil rights watchdog AfriForum and Adv. Gerrie Nel, Head of the organisation’s Private Prosecuting Unit, today announced at a media conference that they would support Miss Gabriella Engels to see that justice prevails in the assault charge that Miss Engels had brought against Mrs Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s First Lady.
The support entails among other that Adv. Nel will monitor the handling of the case by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), as well as the implementation of private prosecution should the NPA fail to prosecute Mrs Mugabe without good cause. Should diplomatic immunity be granted to Mrs Mugabe, AfriForum is prepared to fight this in the highest court. AfriForum’s Trauma Unit will also provide Miss Engels with support to help process the trauma of the assault.
Miss Engels, who was also present at AfriForum’s media conference, says that she is grateful that Adv. Nel and AfriForum support her.
“One feels powerless if you are the victim of violence by a person like Mrs Mugabe, who occupies a position of power. It is comforting that people like Adv. Nel and AfriForum is prepared to see to it that justice prevails.”
Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, says that it is an honour for his organisation to support someone like Miss Engels because she is prepared to take a stand for justice despite enormous pressure.
Adv. Nel says that the Private Prosecuting Unit was established precisely to help see to it that there is equality before the law.
“No one, not even Mrs Grace Mugabe, must be allowed to bypass the law as a result of their position of power,” Nel adds. According to Nel, he will also direct letters to the SAPS and the NPA to request them to take the matter further as soon as possible. “If they fail to do so, there is a sure possibility of private prosecution,” Nel says.
Willie Spies, AfriForum’s legal representative, indicates that he has already directed a letter to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in which he pointed out that no good reason exists to grant Mrs Mugabe diplomatic immunity.
“If the Department continues to grant Mrs Mugabe diplomatic immunity, such a decision would be an administrative action that can be reviewed by a court on the grounds of irrationality. AfriForum will take the case to the highest court if necessary,” Spies says.
Caty van der Merwe, the Operational Manager of AfriForum’s Trauma Unit, says that victims of violent crimes are subject to enormous trauma.
“The more so if the attacker occupies a position of power, leaving the victim more vulnerable. AfriForum’s Trauma Unit will provide the necessary support to Miss Engels to process the event,” Van der Merwe says.