Monday, August 16, 2010
Robert Mugabe in Hong Kong
There are few places left in the world that Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is still welcome...and those places that still welcome him tend to not be places one would want to visit...except Hong Kong.
On Saturday afternoon the South China Morning Post caught up with the Mugabe entourage as they shopped at Ocean Terminal in TST. The Mugabe's often come to the territory both for shopping excursions and because their daughter, Bona, is enrolled at City University. The family even owns an apartment in Hong Kong.
Its unfortunate that the red carpet is rolled out for a dictator whose policies have nearly destroyed his country. Its painful to think that the money he is squeezing out of his bankrupt, starving citizens is being used to purchase designer handbags and shoes in Kowloon. Last year Mugabe's wife Grace was arrested by Hong Kong police for assaulting a photographer who snapped a picture of her on a shopping binge, but she pleaded her diplomatic immunity and all charges had to be dropped.
The 86 year old dictator was once the world's darling when he assumed the presidency of a newly independent Zimbabwe in 1980. Expectations were high that the bright and charming new leader of the resource rich country would usher in the beginning of an African Renaissance. Instead, it became the beginning a nightmare for most of the nation's citizens.
I've been interested in Africa for a number of years. Not only is my undergraduate degree through the University of South Africa, but in my years overseas I have met an befriended a number of South Africans and Zimbabweans. Particularly from my white Zimbabwe friends I have heard the tragic stories of farmers intimidated, beaten, and killed in order that their lands could be confiscated. The country, which used to be an exporter of food, now has to import to try to stave off starvation.
A good book I read recently called, Dinner with Mugabe attempted to analyze how this intelligent man, who at first wanted only the best for his country, descended into a paranoid madness that has wrecked untold havoc on millions.
Hey, but he's still welcome in Hong Kong where tailored suits, expensive shoes, and fancy jewelery await. But when you see them...avoid taking pictures, it could be painful.