Australian police on Tuesday said they would work with international bodies to investigate rape allegations against Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa, 79, was accused of sexual assault by a now 33-year-old woman dating back to 2004 when she was a 15-year-old Form 3 pupil at Loreto High School in Silobela.

Susan Mutami, a health services professional, walked into a police station in Brisbane on Monday and filed sexual abuse charges against the Zanu PF leader. We can name her after she went public with her allegations on Twitter.

Matt Adams, a spokesman with the Queensland Police Service, declined to discuss details of Mutami’s complaint filed at Mount Ommaney Police Station, three days after she went public with the rape allegations.

In an e-mailed response to questions from ZimLive, Adams said Tuesday: “For confidentiality and privacy reasons, we are unable to provide any information other than to advise Queensland Police will liaise with, and refer any inquiries to international jurisdictions.”

George Charamba, the official spokesman for Mnangagwa, dismissed the allegations as “gossip.” He said Mnangagwa would not be commenting.

The scandal has cast a pall over Mnangagwa’s bid to seek re-election as Zanu PF leader at a congress expected in October. His former deputy, Kembo Mohadi, resigned for lesser reasons over revelations he organised sex romps in his government office with married women, including the wife of an intelligence officer.

Mutami has described in graphic detail Mnangagwa’s anatomy to back up her allegations. She claimed Mnangagwa has a birth mark on the inner left thigh and another on one of his butt cheeks.

She also revealed that she previously told Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe and the current Zimbabwe National Army commander Lieutenant General David Sigauke about the abuse.

She claims local government minister July Moyo was present at the Golden Mile Hotel in Kwekwe when, as a schoolgirl, Mnangagwa led her to one of the rooms and raped her for the first time.

Legal experts say an international investigation targeting a head of state could be a “dead end”, especially without the cooperation of local police. Politically, Mnangagwa could still pay the price with his deputy Constantino Chiwenga reportedly weighing up an unprecedented challenge to a sitting Zanu PF leader, the party in power since the end of colonial rule in 1980.

A top Zimbabwean lawyer explained: “Every country has criminal laws either based on common law or they are codified, meaning there’s a statute which defines what constitutes a crime. Some crimes are domestic, meaning local, but local can vary from province to state to nation. Then there are international crimes like terrorism, murder, sexual offences, money laundering and treason which are extraditable.

“Extradition works on reciprocity. The rape of a minor or paedophilia is an extraditable offence worldwide. The next level is then to say if it’s an extraditable offence, and if there’s no reciprocity from the country where the offence was committed, you deal with Interpol and the United Nations if the person is a political figure. Without reciprocity, only international bodies can execute an arrest warrant and acquire evidence, including witness statements.

“This person believes they can’t get justice in Zimbabwe. Australia is obliged by its responsibility to citizens to pursue this as far as it can take it.”

But the lawyer admitted that it would take a change of leader, or government, for Mnangagwa to face justice not least because the constitution says a sitting president has immunity. Australia also has frosty diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe after imposing travel and financial sanctions on the country’s leaders two decades ago.

“In terms of legal recourse, in this part of the world, it’s a bit of a dead end especially looking at the guy’s age. But the political dynamics can change anytime, and that’s what the police and prosecutors would be praying for,” the lawyer added, speaking on condition they were not named.

Mutami told police that Mnangagwa – then a cabinet minister – pursued her after meeting her during an interschools athletics competition in 2003. She was in Form 2 and in uniform.

Mnangagwa, 79, eventually took her into his home in Kwekwe when her father died in 2005.

She claims the Zanu PF leader, who became president after a military coup in November 2017, raped her several times over many years.

Mutami said during her stay at Mnangagwa’s farm between 2005 and 2007, she once tried to tell his wife, Auxillia, about the abuse, but Zimbabwe’s future first lady refused to believe her.

“She told me I smell like urine, and boasted that ‘my husband has classy bitches, not you’.”

Mutami also claimed she was punched in the face by Mrs Mnangagwa.

Mutami left for Australia in 2007 after her mother moved there to work as a nurse.