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Mrs. Mugabe allegedly assaulted Gabriella Engels said to have been found with her children - Chatunga and Robert Junior - at a hotel in South Africa.

But Mugabe failed to hand herself over to police as agreed earlier this week and is now claiming diplomatic immunity.

Cape Town - It is impossible for Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe to invoke diplomatic immunity if a diplomatic passport was not gazetted in advance of her trip, an worldwide law specialist has told News24.

Her official duties at the summit could bolster her claim to diplomatic immunity, after her trip to see her sons was widely described as private.

A senior Zimbabwean government official told Zimbabwean press, "Yes, she is back in the country".

Engels said she was attacked with an electrical extension cord. She launched herself at me, tried to grab my camera and then directed punches at my face.

In a brief telephone call on Wednesday, Olga Bungu, a spokeswoman for Zimbabwe's first family, said: "I'm not at work; you can talk to Mr. Charamba".

Debbie Engels told local media that she will pursue the case until a warrant is issued for the arrest of Mrs Mugabe.

Mrs Mugabe seen at a rally in Zimbabwe has applied for diplomatic immunity as she faces assault charges
Mrs Mugabe seen at a rally in Zimbabwe has applied for diplomatic immunity as she faces assault charges Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi AP

Police have put out a "red alert" to prevent any attempt by Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe to leave the country. "Our investigations were completed, but before we could take the next step, the suspect applied to invoke diplomatic immunity".

Others have accused the South African government of affording preferential treatment to Grace Mugabe based on her status and the close ties between Mugabe and South Africa's President Jacob Zuma.

He said police had to treat her differently from an "ordinary person" because of her diplomatic status.

"They noticed me taking pictures when she was about 150 metres from her hotel and began shouting at me", Jones told the Post.

"We were expecting a statement from her", he said, according to the domestic ANA news agency.

We don't grant diplomatic immunity, " said Naidoo, when informed that Dirco had referred any questions to the police.

"I want to go to court because I really feel like she should go to jail for what she did to me", she said.