Judgment due on where Grace Mugabe should be served with court papers

Gabriella Engels gestures during a media conference. (AP)
Gabriella Engels gestures during a media conference. (AP)

Pretoria – The High Court in Pretoria is expected to deliver its judgment on Friday on the application brought by model Gabriella Engels and AfriForum to serve Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe with court papers.

The application came after Mugabe allegedly assaulted Engels with an extension cord on August 13 and was granted diplomatic immunity by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Mugabe has reportedly denied that she assaulted Engels, 20, after she allegedly found her with one of her two sons, Chatunga Bellarmine, in a hotel room in Sandton.

Judge Harshila Kooverjile has to decide whether Mugabe should be served court papers at the Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa or in person in her home country.

On September 19, the embassy applied to become an intervening party in AfriForum's application to see a decision by Nkoana-Mashabane to grant Mugabe diplomatic immunity set aside.

In what is AfriForum's first hurdle in its application, it has to get permission to serve papers on Mugabe, who is in a foreign country.

AfriForum lawyer Advocate Etienne Labuschagne and Advocate Simba Chitando, for the embassy, had spent almost three hours in the High Court on September 19 arguing the technicalities of where Mugabe should be served papers.      

Labuschagne had argued that the embassy had no right to oppose the application "as the case was between AfriForum and the court".

Complex issue

Labuschagne said AfriForum had the right to institute proceedings before the court as it wanted to serve Mugabe at the president's office in Zimbabwe.

But Chitando said the first lady doesn't reside there.

Chitando told the court that the issue was complex, and that this had not been a proper ex parte application. 

He also said AfriForum had no right to oppose the embassy as an intervening party.

Labuschagne argued that AfriForum was dealing with a high-profile wife of a president, not someone who needed to be traced.

He said the organisation needed to serve Mugabe papers at a location where the proceedings would be brought to her attention. 

Judge Kooverjile asked AfriForum and the embassy to prepare short heads of arguments on why certain rules applied or not.

She reserved judgment for Friday. 

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