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Grace Mugabe, wife of President Robert Mugabe, addresses a rally of the ruling ZANU (PF) in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe July 29, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Photo


JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe did not make an expected appearance at a summit of regional leaders in South Africa on Saturday, following allegations of assault against her by a 20-year-old model.

South Africa has granted Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity, a security source told Reuters on Friday.

Police had placed border posts on "red alert" to prevent her fleeing after Gabriella Engels said she was whipped by Grace Mugabe with an electric extension cable on Sunday as she waited with two friends in a luxury Johannesburg hotel suite to meet one of Mugabe's adult sons.

Robert Mugabe, the 93-year-old president of Zimbabwe, was seen in Pretoria on Saturday attending the South African Development Community summit, but his 52-year-old wife was not at his side or part of his delegation.

While the man who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980 was being welcomed along with other heads of state in a conference hall, protesters outside the building were demanding that his wife face justice.

Local media reported that Grace Mugabe was not attending the summit where she had been scheduled to take part in a session for leaders' spouses from 1000 GMT.

Harare has made no official comment and requests for comment from Zimbabwean government officials have gone unanswered. The South African government has restricted all official comment to the police ministry.

(Reporting by TJ Strydom; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

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