'She hit me for what seemed like forever' - Mugabe alleged assault victim

2017-08-20 06:02
Gabriella Engels gestures during a media conference this week. The model had accused Zimbabwe’s First Lady of assault. Picture: AP

Gabriella Engels gestures during a media conference this week. The model had accused Zimbabwe’s First Lady of assault. Picture: AP

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Grace Mugabe assault may not be deemed 'serious enough' - expert

2017-08-18 09:56

Immigration attorney Gary Eisenberg, who has worked on a number of extradition cases, suggests Grace Mugabe's alleged assault may not be 'serious enough' to potentially spoil diplomatic relations between SA and Zimbabwe, if prosecution were sought. Watch. WATCH

Grace Mugabe stormed into the room, already armed with an extension cord, according to her alleged assault victim.

“She just had this sort of look in her eyes, that she was furious and that the extension cord was probably the first thing she could grab with which to beat somebody.”

Mugabe was seemingly looking for her socialite sons, but they were not in the room.

Behind the first lady were more than 10 bodyguards and some of the hotel’s security guards.

“She was well-dressed and I had no idea who she was. She kept screaming, asking where her son was. The more we tried to explain they might be elsewhere in the hotel [but not with us], the less she wanted to believe it.

“The next thing she hit my friend who was closest to her with the cord. She ran away and then she started hitting me.”

This is what Gabriella “Gaby” Engels (20), who was allegedly assaulted by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, told City Press’ sister newspaper Rapport this week.

She said she and a friend regularly visited two male friends (not Mugabe’s sons) at the Capital 20 West hotel in Sandton.

On Thursday, Engels was still in pain after receiving stitches in the back and front of her head. Her legs were full of bruises.

“It wasn’t just once or twice – she hit me with the sharp side of the extension cord’s plug for what seemed like forever.”

According to Engels, the plug that was allegedly used in the attack isn’t a South African plug with rounded points, but the overseas type, with three flat, sharp points.

“The guards just stood there and didn’t do anything. I have no idea how she got into the room because the door was locked.

"I met Bella [Bellarmine, the younger Mugabe son] for the first time at the same hotel the day before.

“I didn’t even know he was Robert Mugabe’s son. It was the first time that I’d ever met him, through a mutual friend. I’ve never even seen the other son [Robert junior],” Engels said.

The alleged attack took place on Sunday night while Engels, two female friends and their two male friends were listening to music in the men’s hotel room.

The men were out of the room when Mugabe stormed in.

During an SABC interview, Engels said she thought it was one of Mugabe’s bodyguards who told them they needed to remain in the room.

“We didn’t know what was happening and did what we were told,” she said.

“We regularly go to the hotel with our friends and there was nothing different about this night. I still don’t know if she ever found Bella.

"We ran away and a hotel security guard told me it was Grace Mugabe. I asked him who she was because I wanted to lay charges against the lady.”

Mugabe allegedly first took a swing at Engels’ female friend, who got away. But she then cornered Engels, who bore the brunt of the alleged attack while trying to escape in between Mugabe’s legs.

“Outside the hotel there was a long row of cars that apparently belonged to her. We took an Uber straight to the police station because I was bleeding all over.

"I was holding a friend’s jersey to my head to stop the bleeding.

“I wanted to get to the police because I thought then we’d be safe. The police then said I had to go to hospital first.”

The three friends then went to Engels’ house in an Uber vehicle.

Debbie Engels, Gaby’s mother, said she was already asleep when the girls arrived.

“Gaby couldn’t speak because she was in total shock. A piece of skin from her forehead was hanging loose and she looked terrible.”

Gaby’s friends then explained that it was Robert Mugabe’s wife who allegedly hit Gaby.

“I thought it was some nickname they’d given somebody. At the hospital, they gave her stitches and took photographs. I again asked Gaby who had hit her and she said: ‘The wife of Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe.’”

“I was like, ‘huh?’ At home I googled a photo [of Grace Mugabe] and asked if it was her.

“She didn’t doubt for a second that it was Grace Mugabe.

“We had barely got home and it was already breaking news that Mugabe had assaulted her sons’ girlfriends.”

On Tuesday morning, Gaby received a call from a mutual friend saying the Mugabes allegedly wanted to settle the case. She was told she was required to provide a desired amount by Tuesday night.

“Fifteen minutes later I let them know that I was not interested and that I was going ahead with the case,” she said.

Since then, a storm has broken loose, with the Zimbabwean government requesting that Grace Mugabe be granted diplomatic immunity.

The first time Gaby dared to leave her house was on Thursday, when AfriForum and Gerrie Nel, head of the organisation’s private prosecutions unit, announced that they would be assisting Engels with the case.

If the police and the state do not act against Mugabe, Nel will consider the matter for private prosecution.

“My emotions are all over the place. The worst is that a total stranger could assault me in this way, for no reason. I will never go there again,” Engels said in tears.

“I see all the negative comments about me on social media. I always wanted to be famous, but not like this.”

Read more on:    grace mugabe  |  gabriella engels

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