Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe
Photo by: Reuters
Should Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe be served court papers at the Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa or in person in her home country?
That's what acting judge Harshila Kooverjile must decide after several factors were raised during argument on Tuesday.
The embassy has applied to become an intervening party in Afriforum's application to see a decision by International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to grant Mugabe diplomatic immunity set aside.
Mugabe was granted permission to leave the country despite allegedly assaulting South African model, Gabriella Engels with an extension cord on August 13.
Both Engels and her mother Debbie were in court during proceedings accompanied by Afriforum CEO Kallie Kriel.
In what is the first hurdle in its application, Afriforum has to get permission to serve papers on Mugabe who is in a foreign country.
In what was a lengthy exchange, Afriforum's Advocate Etienne Labuschagne and the embassy's Advocate Simba Chitando spent about three hours in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria arguing the technicalities of where Mugabe should be served papers.
No leg to stand on
In his argument, Labuschagne argued that the embassy had no leg to stand on as the case was between Afriforum and the court. The intervening party had no right to oppose the application, he said.
Labuschagne argued that AfriForum had the right to institute proceedings before the court saying they want to serve Mugabe at the president's office but Chitando replied: "She doesn't reside there.''
"It doesn't make any grammatical sense or even logical sense to say Grace Mugabe resides in the presidency,'' Chitando told the High Court on Tuesday.
Chitando argued that the issue had been complex, but this had not been a proper ex parte application.
"Look, if you want to serve on the president, the president's representative is here...It is not for us to say we are going to help you find addresses," he said.
"We are not going to find new laws for Grace Mugabe, we are going to deal with the laws that are here."
The right to oppose
He said Afriforum did not have the right to oppose them as an intervening party.
But Labuschagne said, "We are not dealing with someone who needs to be traced. We are dealing with a high profile wife of a president.’’
He said they needed to serve Mugabe papers at a location where the proceedings would be brought to her attention.
Kooverjile asked both parties to prepare short heads of arguments on why certain rules applied or not.
She reserved judgment.
Speaking to reporters outside the High Court, Afriforum's Willie Spies said he believed they had made their case and were looking forward to the judgment.
"I think the Zimbabwean government will keep delaying this matter but on the other hand we are also patient," Spies said.