Mugabe goes on a Singapore shopping blitz

Published Jan 18, 2003


By Douglas Carew

When it comes to lavish Christmas spending, Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe is king.

Mugabe has outdone his big-spending spin doctor Jonathan Moyo by flying to Singapore to indulge in a huge shopping spree of his own, while back home millions of his countrymen face starvation, partly because of Mugabe's failed policies.

Information Minister Moyo's two week spending spree in Johannesburg received extensive news coverage this week, but Mugabe went to even greater lengths to stock up on expensive goods for himself and beat the shortages caused by the Zimbabwean economy's state of near paralysis.

Singapore is south-east Asia's premier shopping destination, with thousands of shops selling the best the world's manufacturers have to offer, and Mugabe stocked up with 15 trolley loads, including high-tech electronic goods.

Mugabe and his political cronies are banned from entering the European Union and the US in terms of sanctions imposed against his human rights violations.

But he was spotted last week in business class on a flight from Singapore to Johannesburg by Greg Mills, national director of the South African Institute of International Affairs.

Mills, who had been on a working visit to the East, was checking in at Changi Airport in Singapore when he was amazed to see the 15 trolley-loads of goods addressed to Mugabe's official residence in Harare.

The boxes were sealed so Mills could not see what they contained. However some had labels of high-tech electronic products.

"Just before take-off, Mugabe, his wife and eight other members of their entourage stepped on board and he sat directly behind me," Mills said. "With what is going on in his country, the rest of the business class passengers were stunned at his presence." Mills said aside from the shopping spree, the 10 business-class seats would have cost at least $30 000 (about R270 000).

"One is scandalised by his taking a holiday in the East and indulging in a shopping spree with so many people starving at home because of his policies," Mills said.

Moyo was unrepentant when details of his spending spree in Johannesburg were reported.

A newspaper reported that Moyo had filled his luxury Pajero, a Mercedes Benz, a bakkie and a trailer with goods ranging from a big-screen television and home theatre system to rolls of polony, canned food and mealie meal.

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