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By Staff Reporter

ZIMBABWE'S President Robert Mugabe has made a desperate 6 000-mile dash to save his marriage, New can reveal.

Mugabe left Harare this week and was seen at the Nikko Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on what officials said was a "private visit".

The Sun newspaper in London reports that Mugabe is on a "£250,000 Grand Prix junket" to watch Formula One with his family this weekend.

But sources have told New that Mugabe made the trip in a bid to "save his marriage" after his furious wife booked herself on a Far East holiday three weeks ago.

The 83-year-old leader's wife, Grace, left Zimbabwe with their three children - Bona, Robert Jnr and Chatunga -- just days after the couple returned from Ghana's independence celebrations where she was publicly humiliated by relatives of Mugabe's late ex-wife, Sally.

Grace was furious when on a visit to Mugabe's former inlaws, she was forced to stay in the car while Mugabe was allowed to enter the house and hold talks with Sally's relatives, including her mother Mavis Hayfron.

Mugabe later laid a wreath at the tomb of his son Nhamodzenyika who died in 1966 at the age of three from cerebral malaria.

Sally died in 1992 from a kidney ailment, two years after Mugabe married Grace -- his former secretary who is almost 40 years his junior and with whom he already had two children -- in a tribal ceremony.

Mugabe justified the marriage under a traditional African law which allows him to take a junior wife. Mugabe finally married Grace in a Roman Catholic wedding Mass in August 1996.

Sources say the events in Ghana so infuriated Mugabe's wife that she "asked for time out" before going on a holiday in the Far East.

Mugabe's marriage to Grace has been rumoured to be an unhappy one. Just two years ago, Mugabe personally led intelligence officials on a sweep of businessman James Makamba's Johannesburg home after hearing claims that he was secretly seeing his wife.

Makamba now lives in exile, travelling regularly between South Africa and England.

Before Makamba came on the scene, there was talk that Mugsabe's wife had also enjoyed secret trysts with another businessman, Peter Pamire. Pamire died in a bizarre car crash in what his family believes was murder.

Mugabe, who went back on his promise to retire when his current term ends in 2008, has moved from state accomodation and now lives at his £5 million mansion in the plush Borrowdale surburb with his family.

A source revealed: "The President's marriage is on the rocks. A lot of strain has been building up and Grace couldn't take it anymore, deciding to go as far away as she could to get away from it all."

Mugabe's wife is also said to be opposed to Mugabe's plan to stand for re-election in presidential elections next year.

"She thinks that there are people who are milking Mugabe's continued stay in office, people like [Nicholas] Goche (State Security Minister) whom she hates with a passion for giving Mugabe intelligence that she was was two-timing him with Makamba," a source revealed.

Vice President Joseph Msika is Acting President in Mugabe's absence. It is not clear when Mugabe will finally return from the Far East.

He was seen with a large entourage at the Nikko hotel in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday afternoon, but there was no confirmed sighting of his wife, or his children.

A guest said: “It was like a mini-riot with his bodyguards brandishing guns and ordering people out the way. A member of staff said he comes to the race here every year.”

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