Zimbabwe’s First Lady charged for Hong Kong assault

January 18th, 2009 - 6:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Hong Kong, Jan 18 (DPA) The wife of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe was Sunday being investigated by Hong Kong police for an alleged assault on a photographer during a shopping trip to the city.Grace Mugabe, 43, is accused of repeatedly punching Richard Jones - chief photographer of the Hong Kong photo agency Sinopix - after he took pictures of her shopping in Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui.

Jones was on assignment for Britain’s Sunday Times, which yesterday (Saturday) published a front page story about the incident along with pictures of Mugabe and her alleged victim showing his injuries.

The wife of the Zimbabwean leader was being tailed by Jones and a colleague as she left the five-star Shangri-la hotel she was staying in to go shopping with a bodyguard and a woman friend.

Jones told DPA the president’s wife tried to wrestle his camera from him before hitting him repeatedly in the alleged attack last Thursday morning.

“They noticed me taking pictures when she was about 150 metres from her hotel and began shouting at me,” said Jones, 43, who said he was tailing Mugabe as part of the newspaper’s investigation into her shopping holiday.

“The bodyguard chased after me. I ran but I was carrying heavy camera gear and he caught up with me after 30 metres and tried to get my camera off me.

“Then I saw Grace Mugabe coming at me. She launched herself at me, tried to grab my camera and then punched on my face. She hit me at least 10 times in the face and head.

“I was shocked. She was behaving like a mad woman. I thought ‘Here is the First Lady of an African nation punching me in the face in the middle of the street in Hong Kong’. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”

Jones reported the alleged assault to police in Tsim Sha Tsui two days later, by which time Mugabe and her entourage had checked out of the hotel and left Hong Kong.

Mugabe was in Hong Kong as part of an Asian holiday that began in early January in the Malaysian resort island of Langkawi and then continued to Singapore where she was joined by husband Robert, according to the Sunday Times.

The Zimbabwean first lady, whose country is heavily dependent on food aid, flew to Hong Kong without her husband Jan 9 and stayed with her entourage in a suite at the Shangri-la, the newspaper said.

The Sunday Times claims Robert Mugabe withdrew $92,000 from the central bank in Harare at the beginning of January to fund his wife’s Asian holiday.

Asked about the alleged assault by Grace Mugabe, a Hong Kong police spokeswoman said: “The police received a report from a 43-year-old man Jan 17.

“He reported the case to Tsim Sha Tsui police station stating he was assaulted by a woman Jan 15 in the Tsim Sha Tsui district.

“The case has been classified as assault occasioning actual bodily harm and the Tsim Sha Tsui CID team is investigating the case. There has been no arrest so far.”

Grace Mugabe is understood to have returned to her native Zimbabwe after her stay in Hong Kong.

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