The Time A Dictator’s Son Asked For My Photo

Exhausted, my sister and I step off the overcrowded dance floor of Trinidad’s swanky club, 51 Degrees, and onto the balcony. It’s 3:30 a.m. A guy offers us a seat and we both squeeze onto it, watching the slightly tipsy characters chat with friends and strangers and puff furiously on cigarettes.

little did we know what was in store for us...

A young looking guy walks straight over to us, crouches down to our level, and asks, “Can I take a photo of you?”

I reply, slightly condescendingly, “Why, so you can post it all over your Facebook?”

He says, “No, I don’t have Facebook. If I did, it would increase the likelihood of me getting kidnapped.”

Taken aback by this strange answer, I say, “So you think that all of the 500 million people who have Facebook are likely to be kidnapped?”

He smiles and says, “No. Just me.”

I raise my eyebrows. “Why?”

“Because I’m Robert Mugabe’s son. You know, the prime minister of Zimbabwe.”

Say what?!?! I couldn’t believe my ears.

“You’re Mugabe’s son?”

He nods his head and pulls out his Zimbabwean ID, marked with a different name. “I have to use a different ID, of course, because my own name would be too obvious.”

I’m shocked – and unsettled.

He tells me he’s in Trinidad looking at schools.

“So can I please take your photo? I want to put it in my journal to help me remember my time in Trinidad. I won’t even put your names, I promise.”

I don’t recall much about Mugabe except for the horrendous inflation and a group of white Zimbabwean farmers I met who were protesting in Christchurch a few years back.

I am positive it’s not a family I’d like to be associated with.

I imagine the photo of my sister and myself on some strange potential bride list.

I try to weasel out of it. I tell him we’re American, and he should get photos of Trini women to remember his time on the island.

He persists.

I briefly consider my choices. I could be rude. I could beat around the bush. Or I could take a more diplomatic route that would both save me from the photo as well as ending up headless in a river.

I go with the third option. “I’m sorry, but we don’t want to be in any photos. Sorry about that. Have a good night.”

Resigned, he excuses himself like a gentleman. I sit back and replay the scene. Luckily, the end of the night was nearing because I needed some time to process this.

Fueled by a driving curiosity (and a can of Red Bull), I stay up late into the night Googling Mugabe’s political history as well as his son’s face.

Yep, it was definitely him.

Here are a few fun facts I managed to uncover about the Mugabe family:

I’m glad I passed on the photo.

  • Oh my! That is a very interesting story. I would be freaked out too if someone who was directly related to a ruler from another country. At least know you have a great story you can tell for the rest of your life.

  • Probably a solid decision.  Hopefully the son learns from the mistakes (greed) of the father.

  • Yeah… the strange part wasn’t that he was a ruler, but the type of ruler he is :-/

  • Hmm we’ll see…

  • Roberto

    How did you know he was telling the truth?, he had different id, and those criminals never say who they are if they are on vacation.

  • Because I googled him and it was the same guy