UK photojournalist narrates assault by Zimbabwe’s first lady
By Violet Gonda
23 January 2009
UK Sunday Times photojournalist, Richard Jones, told SW Radio Africa on Friday how he was assaulted by Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Grace Mugabe. Mugabe was on holiday in Hong Kong with her family when the incident happened last week.
The Hong Kong based photographer said he was working on a story for the British newspaper, contrasting the different lifestyles between Mrs Mugabe and the Zimbabwe people, when the trouble started.
Jones said he tailed Robert Mugabe’s wife when she came out of her hotel and was walking towards a shopping centre. But she saw him trying to take photos. He said the First Lady and her body guard rushed towards him and tried to wrestle the camera away from him. “She was punching me in the face while he (the bodyguard) was holding me.”
Jones said he couldn’t understand what she was saying to him as she was ‘screaming’ at him in another language.
The incident is now being investigated by Hong Kong police. Jones reports the police are gathering evidence, including CCTV footage, and statements by eyewitnesses.
Members of the Mugabe regime have a reputation of terrorising journalists, political and civic activists back in Zimbabwe, and they always get away with it. But it appears that this time pressure is mounting from the international community to have this latest incident properly investigated.
The Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club said on Friday it is dismayed by the ‘disgraceful attack’ inflicted on one of its members. This is an influential and respected club for the media, business and diplomatic community in Hong Kong.
The Club welcomed the ongoing investigations by the police and said: “We look forward to the widespread publication of its results, regardless of whether any of the parties involved are protected by diplomatic immunity. In a city where the rule of law prevails and media freedom is respected, no person - no matter his or her rank or status - can expect such a matter to be swept under the carpet.”
Jones also said Mrs. Mugabe had a case to answer and that he had every confidence in the independence of the Hong Kong police. “The law is very strong here. You cannot assault a photographer or a journalist going about their business in a peaceful manner. There is freedom of the press here and it is a big deal. There is a law and everybody is answerable”
We could not reach Paul Mangwana, Zimbabwe’s acting Information Minister, for a comment.