With the exception of gossip papers that plaster its pages with any popular personalities walking their dogs or buying grocery, it’s not everyday that we see political figures on a shopping spree appear on news pages. Not necessarily headlines, but still unusual for such apparently mundane content. Maybe not, if the VIP is Robert Mugabe, the leader of Zimbabwe, a country beset with perennial problem of famine, inadequate health care and nearly worthless currency.
He is hated by many for preference for lavish parties over helping poor countrymen. As a result, for example, he is banned from traveling to Europe. (Such ruling does not apply to Vatican City, so Mr Mugabe was able to attend Pope John Paul II’s funeral.) But certainly there are those who value him as a political friend and valuable business partner. Maybe that’s why he can freely raid Hong Kong’s malls, buy a flat in Tai Po and send his daughter Bona to City University of Hong Kong.
His 86-year old frame outhustle his contemporaries as evidenced by a recent visit to Harbour City shoe shops and an upscale tailor in Tsim Sha Tsui. Appearing relaxed and flanked by Hong Kong police force’s VIP protection unit, Mr Mugabe exchanged smiles with locals who recognize who he is. Prior to his shopping visit, he met China’s top leaders Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping in Beijing and attended events dedicated to Zimbabwe Day at Shanghai’s World Expo. Looks like he isn’t too tired to squeeze his time in a humid Hong Kong summer eh?
Mr Mugabe is the recipient of domestic and international criticisms. His critics accuse him of ruining his country’s economy, violent repression and a poor role model for the African continent. Western economies have frozen deals with Zimbabwe as among the sanctions against Mr Mugabe. Yet the poor majority were affected the most, while Mr Mugabe was free to strike deals with other economies such as China. At least during his stay in the city, Mr Mugabe remained well-behaved, unlike his wife Grace, who was the center of controversy when she received immunity from prosecution after assaulting a British photographer.
For now, the travel ban imposed by the United States and Europe doesn’t seem to affect Mr Robert Mugabe’s luxury requirements as Hong Kong continues to cater to his needs.