A waitress suffered a miscarriage after she was pushed by Robert Mugabe jnr as he fled his mother Grace Mugabe’s violent attack at a Sandton hotel on Sunday.
The waitress at Capital 20 West was delivering food when Robert jnr ran past her and pushed her out of the way. The woman fell to the ground and was rushed to hospital, where she later lost her baby.
A hotel employee confirmed the incident.
“She was not hit by Grace. It was Robert jnr who pushed her out of the way as he ran away from his mother.
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“Grace did hit staff members … She was hitting everyone – her sons, their friends, the girls and staff members.”
Another hotel staff member, who did not want to be named, said the waitress had been delivering food on that floor when she got caught in the fracas.
“There was a meeting between Grace Mugabe’s people and the hotel’s human resources people on Tuesday,” he said.
Garnet Basson, chief operating officer at The Capital Hotel Group, did not confirm or deny the incident, but said: “We are handling this thing internally. Please respect that. We will decide on how to deal with this matter going forward.
“It’s the staff member’s privacy that we must respect. I can assure you that we are doing everything in all aspects to ensure that we follow the necessary steps.”
A source said Grace also assaulted a manager at the hotel.
It appears Grace is set to get a free pass from the South African government, with little chance that she will face charges after the highly publicised rampage.
President Jacob Zuma’s administration has buckled under pressure from the Zimbabwean government and other countries in the Southern African Development Community region, and is likely to give diplomatic immunity to Grace.
South African government sources said relations with neighbouring states were the main consideration.
A week of chaos and recriminations, which began with Grace assaulting local model Gabriella Engels with an electrical cord, ended with the two countries on the brink of a full-blown diplomatic row as they blocked each other’s flights.
Highly placed government sources dealing with the diplomatic fallout said Grace was likely to be granted immunity from prosecution following high-level discussions among several government departments.
Several sources said the decision was influenced by the need to protect political stability and trade relations in the SADC region after several other regional countries applied political pressure on South Africa on the sidelines of the regional body’s 37th summit that ends in Pretoria today.
Discussions were still ongoing late yesterday between the departments of international relations, justice and police, the Presidency and the State Security Agency. The dominant view was that Grace should be granted immunity.
“She will get it because if we don’t, this thing will have an impact on the relations between the two countries and the rest of the region. The other countries in the region are also working with us,” said a senior government official close to the discussions.
Engels laid a charge of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm against Grace following the incident at the hotel on Sunday.
“This is actually the fourth incident where she’s assaulted people and gotten away with it,” said the official.
“The minute you arrest the first lady, you are essentially saying the husband must get involved, and that’s the head of state and the implications for us are huge. Zimbabwe is one of our biggest traders in the region.
“So because of the overwhelming diplomatic and political impact of this issue, the decision is you grant the immunity, but that does not mean you don’t understand and appreciate the seriousness of the alleged crime.”
Clayson Monyela, spokesman for the Department of International Relations, referred queries to the South African Police Service. SAPS spokesman Brigadier Vish Naidoo referred queries back to international relations.
It emerged that Police Minister Fikile Mbalula was ready to effect the arrest of Grace but was stopped following the intervention of International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
Yesterday, the diplomatic nightmare intensified and spilt over into a major aviation crisis.
Thousands of passengers flying between Zimbabwe and South Africa were left stranded as civil aviation authorities from both countries grounded flights after what insiders said was “political interference” – and an attempt to force the South African government to grant Grace diplomatic immunity.
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The furore began when a flight to Harare by Air Zimbabwe – operated by Robert snr’s son-in-law Simba Chikore – was grounded on Friday night.
Government sources said the plane was due to fly the Mugabes back to Harare today.
Following a meeting with all aviation entities yesterday afternoon, Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi assured the matter would be resolved within a day.
Maswanganyi said Air Zimbabwe and South African Airways did not have the required foreign operator’s permit, and both airlines had been instructed to comply with regulations.
“From the South African side, the SAA issue was a coincidence and had nothing to do with the restriction of the Air Zimbabwe aircraft by the [SA Civil Aviation Authority, ” read a statement.
The meeting followed “retaliation” from Zimbabwe in which SAA operations in Zimbabwe were halted after flights into and out of Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls were cancelled over what the airline said were “restrictions” imposed by Zimbabwe’s aviation authorities related to the requirement of a foreign operator’s permit for its aircraft.
British Airways, operated by Comair, also cancelled its flights into Harare and Victoria Falls.
The standoff is believed to have been sparked by the grounding of the Air Zimbabwe plane at OR Tambo International Airport.
David Chawota, chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, told the Sunday Times yesterday that Zimbabwean authorities were “enforcing” regulations and had not imposed any restrictions on SAA operations, as claimed by the airline.
“We don’t have any restrictions; we are simply doing an enforcement of the regulations and this is over noncompliance to operational issues as SAA doesn’t have a foreign operator’s permit. But they [SAA] are making efforts to redress the situation,” he said.
With a combined nine daily flights into Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, the standoff could harm SAA’s grip on the lucrative airline industry in Zimbabwe, which it dominates.
Chawota said the action against SAA “was not a tit for tat”.
In Victoria Falls, SAA passengers were ferried by bus from Victoria Falls Airport to board their flight from Livingstone Airport in Zambia – where it is understood SAA planes were landing.
SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said the airline was “completely surprised” by the events.
Tlali said 120 passengers were on board flight SA025 from Harare to Johannesburg.
“This was surprising as we have been operating that route for more than 20 years. We are still trying to understand it,” said Tlali, who did not want to comment on whether the Zimbabwean step was in retaliation for the Air Zimbabwe plane being grounded.
“In total, there were supposed to have been eight flights operated by SAA into and out of Zimbabwe on Saturday – some to and from Harare, and some to and from Victoria Falls,” said Tlali.
“We have decided not to operate those flights until the situation changes. If the situation changes.”
Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Kabelo Ledwaba said the Air Zimbabwe flight was prevented from leaving on Friday when a routine “ramp inspection” uncovered the absence of a foreign operator’s permit.
– Timeslive (Additional reporting by Sabelo Skiti and Dave Chambers)