The South African government has been advised that First Lady Grace Mugabe does not qualify for diplomatic immunity for her alleged assault of model Gabriella Engels. This is despite the fact that Grace was travelling on a diplomatic passport. Senior government officials told the Mail and Guardian:
If she had come here as part of the official delegation of Zimbabwe to participate in the summit, she would have had diplomatic immunity. But even there, it becomes what we call functional immunity. In other words, it’s limited to if she does anything in relation to the summit. If anything goes wrong, she’s covered diplomatically because she’s part of the official delegation.
So even if right now they retrospectively put her as a travelling member of the delegation that is here for the SADC summit, it would still not be enough because what happened in Sandton is not linked to the summit.
Cathleen Powell, a senior public law lecturer at the University of Cape Town added:
The immunity relating to a particular international summit [such as the SADC summit] is covered by the agreement setting up the summit. Unless that agreement specifically covers the spouses of heads of state attending, she won’t be covered. The fact that she is on his arm at an international event does not make her a diplomat and does not give her immunity.
More: Mail and Guardian