Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe has returned home from South Africa after failing to turn herself in to police in Johannesburg to face accusations of assaulting a model in a hotel room.
- A model says Grace Mugabe attacked her with a extension cord
- An official says accusations are a media plot to tarnish Mugabe name
- It's unclear whether Mrs Mugabe was travelling on a diplomatic passport
There was no immediate public comment on the case from 52-year-old Ms Mugabe, a possible successor to her husband President Robert Mugabe, 93, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980.
But Zimbabwe government sources confirmed she had returned home.
"Yes, she is back in the country. We don't know where this issue of assault charges is coming from," said a senior government official who declined to be named.
A second official also confirmed that Ms Mugabe had returned, saying "she is around now" and accused the media of a plot to tarnish the first family's name.
Gabriella Engels, 20, told South African media Ms Mugabe had attacked her after the model had gone to see the Mugabes' sons Robert and Chatunga at a hotel in Johannesburg's upmarket Sandton district on Sunday.
The News24 website quoted Ms Engels' version of events in the hotel room.
"When Grace entered, I had no idea who she was. She walked in with an extension cord and just started beating me with it," the model said.
"She flipped and just kept beating me with the plug. Over and over. I had no idea what was going on.
"I was surprised … I needed to crawl out of the room before I could run away."
News24 published a picture of what it said was Ms Engels with a large gash in her forehead.
"I am a model, with this scar over my face my whole career is ruined," she said.
Confusion surrounds series of events
South African police had been negotiating with Ms Mugabe's lawyers to get her to turn herself in to face charges of assault in a court room, a senior police source said.
But confusion surrounded the case on Tuesday.
South African Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said early in the day that Ms Mugabe had already handed herself in to police and would appear in court shortly.
But in the afternoon, the magistrates court where police said Ms Mugabe would be formally charged closed for the day without her appearing.
The police source said Ms Mugabe was not being considered a fugitive because no arrest warrant had been issued.
"One cannot be a fugitive for not appearing at a court to which they have not been summoned & when they have not been charged of any crime!" Jonathan Moyo, Zimbabwe's Higher Education Minister and a close ally of Ms Mugabe, tweeted.
South African media said Ms Mugabe had been in the country to have an injured foot examined.
It was unclear whether she was travelling on a diplomatic passport.
A Zimbabwean intelligence source said Ms Mugabe had been travelling on an ordinary non-diplomatic passport and was in South Africa on personal business.