Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Meet Grace Mugabe, Harare's First Shopper.

Last month she was photographed, along with her husband and half a dozen minders, in the first class lounge at Singapore’s Changi International Airport. Mrs Mugabe had 15 trolley-loads of exotic foods and electronic goods with her at a time when the World Food Programme said that eight million of Zimbabwe’s 12 million people were on the verge of starving to death as a result of her husband’s Pol Pot-style Year Zero political and economic policies.

Grace, who at the age of 38 is 40 years younger than her husband, may be the greediest and most callous woman on the planet. She lives like a billionairess.

At one time Robert even bought from the Playboy baron Hugh Hefner the porn merchant’s Big Bunny, a lavishly equipped DC-9, so that Grace could go on regular shopping trips to New York, London, Rome and Paris.

When in London, the designer label-loving Grace insisted that she and Robert stay in a luxury suite at Claridge’s, conveniently close to the elegant shops of Kensington and Bond Street where she could stock up on Harrods bathrobes, Church shoes, hundreds of dresses and innumerable boxes of handmade chocolates, all of which were delivered to Big Bunny for the flight back to impoverished Zimbabwe.

Before the European Union imposed personal travel sanctions against him and Grace last March, Robert, fancying himself a bit of a laird, seriously considered buying the First Shopper a Scottish castle, which the wits said would be called "McGabe Towers".

Grace Mugabe is an Imelda Marcos-style figure, and a wheeler and dealer par excellence. Her president husband looted a low-cost housing scheme for junior civil servants to build her a £500,000 three-storey, 30-room private palace in the formerly white Harare suburb of Borrowdale. She named the house Gracelands, partly in honour of herself and partly after Elvis Presley’s mansion of the same name in Memphis, Tennessee.

Grace later sold Gracelands to a close friend, the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, for £3 million, and pocketed the £2.5 million profit.

Not content with her extensive property holdings, Grace last December descended on one of the most beautiful farms in Zimbabwe, Iron Mask, and told the old white couple who had owned and farmed it for 36 years to move off. It was now hers.

"I’m taking over this farm," she told 78-year-old John Matthews and his 74-year-old wife, Eva. She was surrounded by a coterie of government officials, senior army officers and young thugs from her husband’s ruling Zanu PF party.

"We asked her what would happen to us," said one black farm worker. "She said, ‘You can move out and go and live by the river over there’."

To press home her point, the police arrested John Matthews the next day and told him that he had 48 hours to get off the farm or he would be imprisoned.

< email | 2/22/2003 01:45:00 PM | link

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