Yes, it really IS Robert Mugabe in the lipstick section of a New York drug store. And he’s about to be seriously embarrassed...

The extravagant spending habits of President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace are well-documented. Described as the First Shopper of Zimbabwe, she is usually clad in haute couture and hidden behind designer sunglasses.

With a £25,000 diamond-encrusted Rolex watch hanging off her wrist, the 45-year-old thinks nothing of spending millions of pounds during foreign shopping trips each year – while ordinary Zimbabweans can barely find enough food to eat.

But her husband, who indulges her every whim, seems to be somewhat more frugal in his personal spending habits – at least when it comes to cosmetics and toiletries.

Mugabe browses the lipsticks at a downtown drugstore in New York

Let's find the bargain section: Mugabe browses the lipsticks at a downtown drugstore in New York

The 86-year-old dictator was photographed browsing in a downmarket drug store in New York. He was on an official visit to the city to address the UN last Wednesday.

Wearing a crisp grey suit, Mugabe was spotted at the lipstick counter in Duane Reade on 52nd Street.

According to a shopper who found himself facing Mugabe, the president seemed frail under the glaring fluorescent lights.

The New Yorker, whose family live in Zimbabwe, told The Mail on Sunday of the surreal moment he came face-to-face with the tyrant.

Different shopping styles? Robert Mugabe and wife Grace in Pretoria, South Africa in 2004

Different shopping styles? Robert Mugabe and wife Grace in Pretoria, South Africa in 2004

‘I was looking for a box of plasters when I noticed this well-dressed, straight-backed man eyeing me strangely,’ the man said.

‘Another official in a dark suit walked up to him, nervously holding out a list in his hand and muttering something about such and such not being there.

‘I could not believe it when I turned and saw, standing in the cosmetics section, none other than Robert Mugabe, the man who has done so much to destroy the economy of his country. He was hunched over a display of lipsticks and blushers, staring intently, as if uncertain about which colours to choose.’

Emboldened by a sense of outrage, the New Yorker shouted at Mugabe: ‘Give the power back to the people. Leave office gracefully. Do it for Zimbabwe.’

The protester said he did not know who was more shocked – him or the president. Then, quickly lowering his gaze, Mugabe turned and made his way towards the till.

About a dozen tall, dark-suited men – members of Mugabe’s Secret Service detail – immediately swarmed into the store and bundled the man outside.

Mugabe was in New York for a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, which is the only way he can enter the United States due to a travel ban imposed by the US government.

For more than ten minutes, Mugabe remained trapped inside the store while his angry critic waited outside.

Perhaps the president used the time to complete his lipstick purchase or buy some black hair dye and other personal hygiene products stocked at the store.

Unable to find another exit, Mugabe eventually emerged with his bodyguards and scurried into a waiting limousine. It was not a particularly graceful or presidential  departure, but perhaps fitting for an international pariah.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now