The Time A Dictator’s Son Asked For My Photo

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.

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.

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