Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe has denied whipping a South African model with a piece of electrical cord.
The 52-year-old wife of president Robert Mugabe also accused Gabriella Engels of attacking her with a knife and being “intoxicated and unhinged”.
In a previously unreported statement seen by Reuters, Mrs Mugabe painted herself as the victim of last month’s incident in a Johannesburg hotel suite and said she was considering filing attempted murder charges.
Mrs Mugabe claimed she had been worried about her adult sons Chatunga and Robert Junior who were “in trouble with a drunken young woman” in a different room.
“Upon her arrival, Ms Engels, who was intoxicated and unhinged, attacked Dr Grace Mugabe with a knife after she was asked to leave the hotel,” the statement said.
“Security was left with no other option but to remove Ms Engels from the hotel suite,” it continued.
In Ms Engels’ version of events, an angry Mrs Mugabe burst into the room where she was waiting with two friends to meet Chatunga on 13 August and started whipping her with an electric extension cord while the first lady’s bodyguards looked on.
Photographs taken by her mother soon after the incident showed a gash to the 20-year-old model’s forehead and head. She also had bruising on her thighs.
Mrs Mugabe’s statement alleged that Ms Engels might have sustained the injuries in a fight with other women at the city’s Taboo nightclub the previous evening.
But those claims were denied by Afriforum, an Afrikaans civil society group acting on the model’s behalf.
“Gabriella never attacked Grace Mugabe in any way and she did not participate in the fight at Taboo,” Afriforum said.
“It is clear that Grace Mugabe is desperately trying to escape responsibility for her own violent behaviour by using lies to falsely portray the victim in this case as the perpetrator.”
Mrs Mugabe, who is one of the favourites to succeed her 93-year-old husband if and when he steps down as president, dismissed Ms Engels’ side of the story as “malicious allegations”.
The first lady was allowed to return to Zimbabwe after South Africa granted her diplomatic immunity, preventing prosecutors from bringing charges against her.
However, Ms Engels and Afriforum, along with South Africa opposition Democratic Alliance, have challenged that decision, saying Mrs Mugabe was not in South Africa on official business.
They also argued that assault was a “grave crime” that was not covered by diplomatic immunity laws.