An organisation that once represented white Afrikaner farmers opposed to the abolition of South Africa’s race-based system of apartheid has offered to fund the private prosecution of Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe.
The Zimbabwean First Lady has been accused of assaulting a South African model at a hotel.
Afriforum made the announcement, in a move seen as a bid to make a name for itself by using South Africa’s civil right-oriented Constitution to challenge government decisions and wrongdoings.
Private prosecution is allowed in South African law.
The alleged victim, Gabriella Engels, 20, has, meanwhile, turned down a “settlement offer” which Afriforum spokesmen said had been made to the family by a third party.
Ms Engels, a full-time model, laid criminal charges against Mrs Mugabe on Monday after the 52-year-old First Lady allegedly assaulted her in a Sandton Hotel in Johannesburg on Sunday.
Adding to the drama of the announcement was the presence, on the Afriform team of Advocate, Gerrie Nel, the man who sent South African paralympian Oscar Pistorius to prison for the murder of his girlfriend.
The victim’s mother said the model and her family were not interested in a settlement fee, in which they had, in essence, been told to “name a figure”, but that they wanted justice.
To achieve justice, the prosecution was going ahead with the case, regardless of what the government of President Jacob Zuma decided to do, said Afriforum.
President Zuma and his government have yet to determine whether Mrs Mugabe qualifies for the diplomatic immunity for which she is reported to have applied after the incident.
If the case proceeds, it could mean that the wife of a sitting African President is brought before a court in a foreign country on criminal charges that might lead on conviction to jail time.
Legal experts say Afriforum private prosecution might side-step diplomatic immunity for Mrs Mugabe because it is a private citizen’s rights that are in question and the country’s constitutional court may be called upon to adjudicate on the matter.
Ms Engels was seated quietly throughout the press conference and declined to answer questions.
She had bandages on her head, where Mrs Mugabe is alleged to have inflicted an open wound using an extension cord.
Mr Nel said he was concerned about the possibility of political interference during Mrs Mugabe’s prosecution on charges of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Afriforum said it is willing to “fight this matter to the highest court”, he said.
Mrs Mugabe is in South Africa ahead of a Southern African Development Community summit this weekend but apparently was on private business at the time of the incident.
She is reported to have bought a R45 million home in an upmarket Johannesburg suburb and was also doing other “shopping”, according to information available to Afriforum.
South African authorities have put a red alert on Mrs Mugabe at all exist points from the country, according to the police minister, but she was not attempting to leave and was still in South Africa as far as the government was aware.