The Fashion4Development luncheon is an annual fixture honoring philanthropic efforts among fashion-industry leaders during the United Nations' annual General Assembly session. That the lunch is also attended by failed-state kleptocrats is not, necessarily, the fashion organization's fault, but this year's lunch at the Pierre Hotel honored, among others, former model and new British Vogue contributing editor Naomi Campbell, who once infamously accepted a sachet of blood diamonds after a dinner in Johannesburg from former Liberian strongman Charles Taylor, then reportedly on an arms-buying excursion in the South African capital.
It's axiomatic that the leaders of kleptocracies routinely excuse themselves from the practice of altruism – rather, the idea is to keep raking in the loot, even if, as in the case of Zimbabwe, seven out of ten citizens are living in poverty.
In other words, Mrs. Mugabe's appearance at a Rome or Paris boutique with fistfuls cash would be the norm. Whether anybody at or attached to the Fashion4Development awards function registered the contradiction, if not the staggering hypocrisy, inherent in Mrs. Mugabe's attendance at a philanthropic awards lunch has gone unreported.
There are much bigger discussions under way in Harare right now than Mrs. Mugabe's forays in fashion, namely, the negotiations, mediated by the South Africans, on the Mugabes' exit.
While it is estimated that the Mugabe family fortunes exceed $1 billion, a sizable portion of which is outside the country and thus tough to track, it's well known that their property portfolio has increased dramatically over the years, with homes in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and a daisy chain of farms confiscated, or otherwise obtained, from previous owners in Zimbabwe.
The centerpiece of the farms is Mrs. Mugabe's renowned Omega Dairy operation, held to be one of the largest in southern Africa.
Forming the cherries atop this ill-gotten confection of luxuries are the Mugabe children's own shopping hijinks in the high life. Following in his mother's footsteps, Robert Mugabe, Jr., seems inordinately proud of his black alligator-leather gold-plate-trimmed Giuseppe Zanotti high-top sneakers, which are not ordinarily available, with a reported cost of some $14 000.
Mrs. Mugabe's son by her previous marriage was recently seen offloading two Rolls Royces that he had air-freighted into the country. Proving that the apple does not fall far from the tree, the youngest of Grace and Robert Mugabe's three children, Berlamine Chatunga, earlier this year posted an Instagram video of himself enjoying his own luxury shopping by inexplicably pouring a $500 bottle of Armand de Brignac Champagne over his diamond-encrusted watch, accompanied by the free-living caption: "$60,000 on the wrist when your daddy run the country ya know!!!" Grammar and punctuation his.
While it's not known whether the generals who orchestrated the takeover, with Chinese and South African approval, were aware of Belarmine Chatunga's jewelry shopping or his errant disco-boy habits with bottles of fine wines, diamonds, in the form of eastern Zimbabwe's huge Marange diamond fields, will definitely be on the generals' minds in the current discussions with the arrested couple.
The Marange diamond fields are large, skimming by the powers that control them is rife, and the abuses of the miners have been many. The mines have taken a curious path toward legitimization as non-blood mines on the world market, but, after intense lobbying, they have been approved by the Kimberley Process.
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