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Aug

23

2017

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Grace: Why Diplomatic Immunity Isn’t Always An ‘Out Of Jail' Ticket

Grace Mugabe, the wife of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, is accused of assaulting a young woman while on a visit to South Africa. A week after the incident in a hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg’s upmarket central business district, a South African government minister announced that she had been granted diplomatic immunity. She has subsequently returned to Zimbabwe without any attempt by the South African Police Service to arrest her.

The incident has sparked a furious debate about whether she should have been granted immunity, and what this means for the victim of the alleged assault.

At the time of the alleged assault Grace Mugabe was on a private, not official, visit to South Africa. She wasn’t granted immunity before her visit and it’s not clear on what basis she’s now been granted it. Normally diplomatic immunity is granted to an individual envoy by prior agreement, or by the Minister of International Relations if it is in the interests of a country.

Since it is conceivable that Grace Mugabe might visit South Africa again in future it’s worth reviewing the rules, considerations and implications of diplomatic immunity.

Grace Mugabe

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