South African resumes flights to Zimbabwe

AAP
Grace Mugabe speaks to her husband at a welcome home event at Harare International airport.

South African Airways says it will resume flights between South Africa and Zimbabwe after they were blocked by Zimbabwe, which imposed restrictions amid a scandal over an assault claim against the wife of President Robert Mugabe.

The announcement by South Africa's state-owned airline came hours after Zimbabwe's state broadcaster reported that Grace Mugabe had returned home to Zimbabwe with her husband on an Air Zimbabwe flight Sunday morning. There was no immediate comment from the South African government, which had been deliberating whether to grant diplomatic immunity to her at Zimbabwe's request.

South African Airways said it has clearance to fly to and from Zimbabwe on Sunday after the lifting of restrictions that were announced on Saturday. Zimbabwe's action followed the grounding of an Air Zimbabwe flight at Johannesburg's main international airport on Friday evening.

Both countries say they imposed restrictions because planes did not have a "foreign operator's permit".

South African Airways said it has prepared and submitted required documents after the cancellation of flights between Johannesburg, the Zimbabwean capital of Harare and the Zimbabwean city of Victoria Falls.

The wife of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe returned home from South Africa on Sunday despite calls that she be prosecuted for allegedly assaulting a young model at a luxury hotel in Johannesburg.

The South African government said Saturday that it was deciding whether to grant diplomatic immunity to Grace Mugabe at the request of the Zimbabwean government, though there was no immediate comment from South African authorities on Sunday. South African police had issued a "red alert" at borders to ensure she didn't leave undetected and said they were waiting for a government decision on the immunity appeal.

Gabriella Engels, a 20-year-old model, said Zimbabwe's first lady attacked her on August 13, whipping her with an extension cord that cut her forehead.