Browsing the aisles of a downtown drugstore might be an everyday occurrence for New Yorkers, but finding Robert Mugabe perusing the lipstick counter certainly isn't.
Dressed in an expensively cut grey suit and surrounded by minders, the 86-year-old Zimbabwean President was identified by a fellow shopper as the head of state made an unofficial visit to the Duane Reade health and beauty store, on Manhattan's 52nd Street. Mr Mugabe had been in New York to deliver a speech to the United Nations' General Assembly, during which he demanded that Africa should receive permanent representation on the UN Security Council.
But it seems he later found time to stop by the high-street pharmacy chain – which sells everything from Mars bars to diarrhoea remedies – before returning to his own shattered country.
He explored the extensive range of cosmetics which are presumably trickier to locate on the shelves of the average store in Harare following the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy under his presidency.
The startled customer later described Mr Mugabe as looking frail under the shop's harsh fluorescent lights. Writing on The Zimbabwean website under the pseudonym Jonathan Griffin, he wrote: "He was shorter than I expected, but it was definitely him: Zimbabwe's very own president for life standing a few feet away from me in this tacky New York drug store."
The human rights worker from Brooklyn said he recognised the man known in Zimbabwe as "Uncle Bob" because his own parents had grown up in the country. "He was hunched over a display of lipsticks and blush ... He was shorter than I expected".
Incensed by the sight of the dictator shopping while his own people suffer, Mr Griffin says he approached the president and told him: "Give the power back to the people. Leave office gracefully. Do it for Zimbabwe."
A startled Mr Mugabe then "lowered his gaze, turned, and started for the checkout area. I took a picture with my phone as he walked away from me", Mr Griffin wrote.
Mr Mugabe may have been purchasing cosmetics for his 45 year-old wife, nicknamed the First Shopper for her luxurious lifestyle. It is unlikely however, that the £25,000 Rolex-wearing Grace Mugabe, who favours brands including Jimmy Choo and Roberto Cavalli, would have been impressed with the chain drug-store label.Reuse content