Grace Mugabe, the first lady of Zimbabwe, returned home today from South Africa after being granted diplomatic immunity following accusations that she assaulted a model with an extension cable in a Johannesburg hotel.

Gabriella Engels is seen with an injury to her forehead in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo / AP
Gabriella Engels is seen with an injury to her forehead in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo / AP

However, lawyers announced that they would launch a legal challenge this week to the immunity that allowed Mugabe to escape facing any charges of assault.

The immunity, granted after she arrived in South Africa more than a week ago on private business, was a political decision not a legal one, said Lorna Ferguson, a South African lawyer.

"It was irrational and in contravention of South African laws for her to be granted immunity in the face of what were serious criminal charges laid against her for alleged assault a week ago. I consulted the law and with a veteran South Africa foreign affairs expert who said that immunity cannot be granted retrospectively."

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Mugabe is accused of assaulting and injuring Gabriella Engels, a 20-year-old model who was visiting Mugabe's two sons, Robert Jnr and Chatunga, in a Johannesburg hotel a week ago.

Mugabe avoided going to court and was rescued when her husband, Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe, arrived in South Africa to attend a regional conference and arranged immunity for his wife.

Engels's case has been taken up by non-governmental organisation Afriforum, which says it will go to court for the injured woman over the immunity, and will also charge Mugabe in both criminal and civil cases.

President Mugabe and his wife left South Africa through its main military airport near the capital, Pretoria.

No mention of the case has been made on the TV and radio stations and daily newspapers Zimbabwe controls.