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.
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:
- Zimbabwe suffers from one of the worst inflation rates of all time, at 231 million percent.
- His current wife is known as “Gucci Grace,” so dubbed for her lavish shopping sprees.
- Mugabe is also a big spender, reportedly blowing through 2 million pounds per month in air travel (while the local monthly salary is 60 pounds).
I’m glad I passed on the photo.