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Grace Mugabe returns home after assault allegation in South Africa

Grace Mugabe, right, was accused of assaulting a model. Credit: PA

Grace Mugabe, the wife of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, has returned home from Johannesburg after she was granted diplomatic immunity by South Africa.

There were calls to have Mrs Mugabe prosecuted following allegations she assaulted a young model in a luxury hotel.

Mrs Mugabe was greeted by government and military officials at Harare airport on Sunday after returning to her homeland with her husband.

South Africa's foreign minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, granted immunity to Grace Mugabe in a government gazette notice that was published Sunday.

Robert Mugabe has led Zimbabwe since 1980. Credit: PA

Signed on Saturday, the notice recognises "the immunities and privileges of the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Dr Grace Mugabe".

South African police had previously issued an alert to ensure Mrs Mugabe was not allowed to leave the country undetected as they awaited an outcome on the immunity appeal.

The Democratic Alliance, the country's main opposition party, called for a parliamentary inquiry into why South Africa granted Mrs Mugabe's exit.

Gabriella Engels, a 20-year-old model, said Grace Mugabe attacked her on August 13, whipping her with an extension cord that cut her forehead.

A group representing Engels said Sunday it would go to court to challenge the South African government over the immunity issue.

Grace Mugabe could potentially replace her husband, many believe. Credit: PA

"We will take a long-term approach on this," said Willie Spies, legal representative at AfriForum, an organisation that primarily represents South Africa's white Afrikaner minority.

"She may be back in Zimbabwe, but it may mean that she will find it very difficult to come back to South Africa in the future," Spies said.

The Zimbabwean president's outspoken wife has been criticised for a fiery temper and lavish shopping expeditions, but her rising political profile has some asking whether she is manoeuvring to succeed her husband.

She recently said that Zimbabwe's ruling party should restore a provision in its constitution stating that one of the party's vice presidents should be a woman, and has publicly challenged her 93-year-old husband to name a successor.