Family of South African model accusing Grace Mugabe of assault ‘offered money to drop claim

Lawyers for the young model who claims Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe assaulted her in a Johannesburg hotel have said that her family has been approached with an offer of money to drop the allegation.
South African police said a “red alert” has been issued to prevent Grace Mugabe from leaving the country after Zimbabwe’s government requested diplomatic immunity.
The lawyers threatened to go to court if South Africa’s government grants that immunity, saying it cannot be used to “escape prosecution from grave crimes”.

The lawyers also said the family of Gabriella Engels had been approached with an offer of “financial compensation” by a third party.
“They made an offer and said ‘Let us talk, this will go away’ … there was no amount mentioned,” said Gerrie Nel, a prominent South African lawyer who has offered his assistance to the 20-year-old model.

The scandal has become a diplomatic mess for South Africa’s government and Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old president Robert Mugabe, who arrived in South Africa’s capital late on Wednesday apparently to deal with the crisis.
He came early for a regional summit of southern African nations this weekend.

South Africa’s minister of police Fikile Mbalula said all borders have been notified to prevent Mrs Mugabe from leaving the country before the matter is resolved, the African News Agency reported.
“The SAPS (South Africa Police Service) have already put tabs in the borders in relation to her (Mugabe) leaving the country so there is no question about that. The red alert has been put,” Mr Mbalula told reporters.

South African authorities are debating whether to grant the 52-year-old diplomatic immunity.
Ms Engels has registered a case with police accusing Zimbabwe’s first lady of attacking her with an extension cord in a luxury hotel in a Johannesburg suburb late on Sunday.

The model claims she had been in a hotel room with mutual friends of Mrs Mugabe’s two sons, who live in Johannesburg, when the first lady burst in and assaulted her.
Photos of Ms Engels posted on social media show a bloody gash to her forehead that she claimed was a result of the encounter.

Police said they have completed their investigation into the case and are waiting for direction from South Africa’s government on the status of Mrs Mugabe’s immunity request.
The question of immunity is “totally out of our jurisdiction”, said brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, a police spokesman.

Until there is a decision on the immunity application, he said, “the whole investigation is in abeyance”.
Ms Engels has been offered legal help by Mr Nel, a former state prosecutor who now works as a private prosecutor for AfriForum, an organisation that primarily represents the rights of South Africa’s white Afrikaner minority.

Mr Nel secured the murder conviction of Oscar Pistorius.

If Ms Engels’s case goes to court and Mrs Mugabe is convicted, a jail sentence could be possible, Mr Nel said.
Ms Engels attended the press conference on Thursday, a bandage still on her forehead, but did not comment.

Her mother, Debbie Engels, thanked AfriForum for offering to help.

“Now I know this woman is not going to get off scot-free for what she did to my child,” she said.
It is unclear whether Mrs Mugabe entered South Africa with a personal or diplomatic passport.

Zimbabwe’s state-owned Herald newspaper reported last weekend that she was in South Africa seeking medical care.

The debate over whether Mrs Mugabe should be granted immunity quickly took on a political dimension in South Africa, with the opposition Democratic Alliance calling on President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet to ensure the first lady is brought to justice.
“Ms Mugabe should have applied for diplomatic immunity before she came to our country, not after she finds herself facing criminal charges,” said Zakhele Mbhele, a member of parliament for the Democratic Alliance.

He said the police minister “needs to do his job and ensure she is arrested and has her day in court to answer the serious charges against her”.


South African bodybuilder dies after attempting back-flip

A South African, junior world champion bodybuilder from Umlazi, south of Durban, who had “a bright future ahead of him”, died a tragic death during a bodybuilding event in his hometown, KwaZulu-Natal police said on Friday.

Sifiso Lungelo Thabethe, 23, died on arrival in hospital on Saturday, August 5, after falling during the event at a community hall in D section, Umlazi.

In a video taken at the event, Thabethe can be seen flexing his muscles while the announcer tells the crowd about his achievements.

Dressed only in a black Speedo and socks, he walks on stage and attempts to do what looks like a backward somersault, while the crowd cheers him on.

He somehow lands head first and collapses. After a few seconds, a group of men try to help him when they realise that he isn’t getting up.

“He was rushed to hospital where he died on arrival,” said police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele.

An inquest docket was opened at Umlazi police station for investigation, said Mbhele.

According to Body Building South Africa, “Sifiso had a signature backflip” he liked to perform on stage.

“We suspect, because he was wearing socks this time, that he slipped or didn’t get enough momentum and landed horribly on his head,” BBSA national executive president Wayne Price told News24.

The video of Sifiso in his final moments was circulated on social media, however, his family had asked that people desist from sharing it.

Price agreed. “We’re aware of a video of the incident circulating on social media, as is Sifiso’s family, and they’re understandably very upset about that.”

According to Muscle Evolution, a South African bodybuilding magazine, Thabethe was an IFBB Junior World Champion in the up to 75kg category.

The magazine said Thabethe “was described by many as a young man with a bright future”.

WATCH: Sifiso Lungelo Thabethe in action


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South African watchdog opens graft probe against Zuma allies

South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog has launched an investigation into several allies of President Jacob Zuma allegedly linked to corruption at three state-owned companies, based on a trove of recently leaked emails.

South Africa’s Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane said she would probe alleged “improper or dishonest” acts and “unlawful enrichment… by certain public officials” at rail company Prasa, power company Eskom and the Transnet freight logistics conglomerate.

One of the allegations involves suspected kickbacks worth 5.3 billion rand ($411 million) on a contract to purchase locomotives from China for Transnet, Mkhwebane said in a statement late Wednesday.

Brian Molefe, a close Zuma ally and a former head of Eskom, is among the people who will be investigated.

Thousands of leaked emails have recently emerged in the local press exposing alleged misconduct over lucrative government contracts awarded to the Guptas, an influential Indian business family.

A report published last year by the state ombudsman accused the Guptas of wielding unprecedented influence over the government, including letting them select ministers.

It also ordered a judicial inquiry into the allegations, but Zuma has opposed the inquiry and launched a court challenge against the report. His challenge will be heard in October.

The Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party, on Thursday criticised the probe for being too narrow and not focussing on Zuma.

“It appears that this investigation has been crafted as narrowly as possible to create the veneer of a state capture investigation, while at the same time protecting the real power brokers,” the party said.

In power since 2009, Zuma has been engulfed by graft scandals and several humiliating court rulings while grappling with record unemployment and a sluggish economy.

His ruling African National Congress (ANC) party welcomed the decision to investigate the claims contained in the emails.

“We trust that the investigation will shed some much needed light on the disturbing allegations which, if left unattended, have the effect of undermining the integrity and credibility of our government and state,” the ANC said.




New South African alliance calls for Jacob Zuma’s exit

South African opposition parties, religious groups and civil society activists on Thursday launched a new alliance to try to force President Jacob Zuma to step down.

Called the Freedom Movement and backed by retired archbishop Desmond Tutu, it plans to hold a mass rally on April 27, the annual holiday marking South Africa’s first post-apartheid election in 1994.

Zuma’s sacking of respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan last month fanned years of public anger over government corruption scandals, record unemployment and slowing economic growth.

“Never before has there been a more urgent need to build unity of purpose to stop South Africa’s current trajectory,” said the movement at its launch in Soweto, a hotbed of the struggle against apartheid.

Tutu, seen as the country’s leading moral authority, said in a tweet that he supported the movement, adding “it is important that we unite as South Africans to bring an end to state capture”.

“State capture” is a term that refer to the alleged corruption among Zuma and his associates.

Tens of thousands of South Africans have in recent weeks staged demonstrations demanding Zuma’s resignation.

The main opposition Democratic Alliance party and several small opposition parties backed the alliance as well as some trade unions and the National Religious Council.



South African rapper CassperNyovest says Kanye West jacked his floating stage idea

During Kanye West’s show on Saturday night in Edmonton, Kanye called out people he claimed were imitating his floating stage concept, saying, “This the original. Accept no imitations. You with the rap god right now. Niggas be copying my shit bro. Stealing our shit, stealing stages. Copying our shit.”


Well, looks like Kanye’s original idea isn’t original after all. South African rapper Cassper Nyovest took to Twitter to claim that he had the idea first, posting the above photo to Instagram.

Cassper definitely did it first.



South African main opposition Democratic Alliance seeks partners after poll success


South Africa’s main opposition Democratic Alliance said Sunday it was seeking coalition partners to run major cities including the capital and business centre Johannesburg after defeating the ruling ANC in local polls.

“Informal discussions (have) started. We are now in the process of setting up meetings,” DA lawmaker James Selfe told AFP without indicating who the party was talking to.

“We have a lot of experience in coalitions and I’m confident it will work out,” said Selfe.

The DA, led by Mmusi Maimane, topped the poll in municipal elections in the capital Pretoria, taking 93 seats out of 214 to 89 for the African National Congress, which suffered its worst result since the end of white-minority rule 22 years ago, falling below 60 percent of the vote for the first time.

Maimane on Saturday described the results as “a tipping point for the people of South Africa,” while ANC deputy leader Cyril Ramaphosa, Zuma’s vice-president, said the party would heed the electorate’s message.

With no party securing an absolute majority, the two main parties are set to talk to radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

Led by populist Julius Malema, formerly of the ANC, the group says it is open to a role in a coalition — “except with the ANC.”

Despite that initial public stance, the Sunday Times newspaper reported that the ANC and the EFF were in fact in talks in Pretoria, where the EFF garnered 25 seats.

Although a link-up between the latter two parties would appear politically more logical than between the EFF and the centre right DA, it would have to rise above two years of harsh criticism by Malema of President Jacob Zuma.

Following the ANC’s poor showing, Zuma’s position as head of state is now in question, even though his mandate still has three years to run, the poll having been widely seen as a referendum on his scandal-ridden leadership.

Saturday, independent political analyst Daniel Silke told AFP he saw a DA tie-up with EFF as difficult.

“I don’t think EFF is the best coalition partner for DA as they are diametrically opposed on every issue — it could be unstable,” Silke said.

– ‘No ideological barrier’ –

Selfe said, however, it was feasible.

“With EFF we are equally keen to provide good quality services for the people and particularly for the poorest of the poor. There’s no ideological barrier with EFF on this,” he insisted.

There is uncertainty in the business capital Johannesburg, where the ANC also lost its majority in Johannesburg, as it did in Pretoria and also, humiliatingly, in Port Elizabeth, officially known as “Nelson Mandela Bay” after the late former ANC leader and president.

The ANC did top the poll in Johannesburg but it missed a majority by 15 seats while the EFF captured 30.

In Port Elizabeth, the DA requires four seats in order to be able to govern, but should be able to receive sufficient support from several smaller parties.

Although at the national level ANC remains the nation’s top party, it saw its support plunge to 59.3 percent nationwide, a drop of eight points from 2011.

The parties now have two weeks to form coalitions and elect new municipal councils.



Oscar Pistorius taken to hospital after suffering injuries in South African jail’

Barely a month after he was sentenced, the Paralympian, currently serving a six-year jail term for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, was taken to a private hospital at around midday yesterday, according to South African prison officials.

Local website City Press reported he had sustained injuries to his wrists in jail. A security guard told the site: “He had bad cuts on his wrists and the doctors kept wrapping bandages around them.” However, a spokesman for the country’s prisons said he had injured himself falling out of bed and told press that Pistorius denied his injuries were “a suicide attempt”.

He has since been returned to jail. The double-amputee was jailed in July for shooting his 29-year-old model girlfriend through a bathroom door. He had already served a year in jail for manslaughter before his conviction was changed to murder.