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Air Zim grounded in South Africa after assault saga

August 21, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

South African authorities have grounded an Air Zimbabwe flight at Johannesburg Airport – allegedly because it doesn’t comply with civil aviation rules – but rumours circulate that it was done to stop Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Grace Mugabe, leaving South Africa after being accused of assaulting a model in a nightclub.

Grace Mugabe, wife of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, has been accused of assaulting 20-year-old model Gabriella Engels in an upscale hotel nightclub in Johannesburg. The model received a bad gash to the forehead in the alleged encounter. Grace Mugabe failed to appear in court subsequently and it was reported she might try to seek diplomatic immunity.

Then the South African Civil Aviation Authority said it inspected the Air Zimbabwe B767-200 aircraft and found that it didn’t comply with South African and international guidelines. It required a “foreign operator’s permit” and other documents to fly in and out of South Africa.

The plane was grounded, stranding passengers.

The authority denies it is singling out Air Zimbabwe. It says it has recently taken similar action against other operators, including Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways.

The whereabouts of Grace Mugabe were unknown at the weekend and a red alert was issued at all South African borders to make sure she doesn’t leave South Africa until the assault case is heard or the issue of immunity is settled.

In a report in the Standard in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwean Transport minister Joram Gumbo dismissed speculation that the grounding of Air Zimbabwe had anything to do with the Grace Mugabe saga. Others are not so sure.

LATE NEWS: Reports overnight say the impasse has been resolved. Grace Mugabe has been granted diplomatic immunity, which has let her return to Zimbabwe without facing assault charges. Coincidentally, the problem with Air Zimbabwe appears to have been solved as well and the plane will be allowed to leave South Africa on receipt of the correct documentation.

Written by Peter Needham

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