I’m sorry to report that the wife of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe – Grace – has just had her overseas holiday ruined.

Apparently, as she emerged from the Shangri-La, a $3000-a-night Hong Kong hotel, Mrs. Mugabe had her picture taken by Richard Jones, a photographer from the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper.

For some reason this threw Grace Mugabe into a rage. According to witnesses at the scene, she ordered her bodyguard to attack the photographer and then joined in the assault.

“The man held him while she hit him again and again in the face with her fist,” said Werner Zapletal, an Austrian tourist who saw it happen. “She was screaming, completely crazy.”

According to a medical report by Dr Raymond Ng, a general practitioner in Hong Kong, Mr. Jones suffered cuts, abrasions and bruises to the face and head caused by the heavy, diamond-encrusted rings Grace Mugabe was wearing.

Meanwhile, back at home, cholera has claimed the lives of more than 2’100 of Mrs. Mugabe's compatriots, inflation has risen to over 231 million percent and the Government has just issued a Z$100 trillion banknote.

I’m not sure how much 100 trillion Zimbucks is worth as I’m not very good with figures. I begin to lose track of zeroes at that level. However, to put it in perspective, as I write (morning of 19th January) a million Zimbabwe dollars are worth 5 US cents. Last time I shopped in Zimbabwe, one of their dollars was about the same as one US dollar.

But does Grace Mugabe let these small discomforts get her down? No. As Zimbabwe's First Lady she has to keep up appearances. Once, when asked why she spent thousands on expensive Ferragamo shoes while her people starved, she replied, “I have very narrow feet, so I wear only Ferragamo.”

So, with such a sense of style – an important attribute for a First Lady – I’m astonished that she objected so strongly to being photographed.

You can read more on this story in the Zimbabwe Times.

(Photograph: Associated Press)

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