First, the “new regime” in Zimbabwe is hardly new. While Mugabe and his wife, Grace, have departed, those in control are the very same henchmen who kept Mugabe in power for nearly 40 years.
The new vice president, Constantino Chiwenga, is the army general who led a de facto coup in 2008.
After the opposition defeated Mugabe at the polls, Chiwenga organized a brutal campaign of violence and intimidation to keep Mugabe in power.
Sibusiso Moyo, the officer wearing camouflage fatigues and a beret who announced the army takeover on state television, is now foreign minister. And the list of Mugabe acolytes in power goes on and on.
Second, despite the rhetoric, Mnangagwa has no intention of losing by the ballot. His officials have already admitted that the military will safeguard their survival.
Top adviser Christopher Mutsvangwa recently said: “We will win resoundingly. … We will mobilize heavily working with the [Zimbabwe Defense Forces].”
State media has also begun again to demonize human rights activists and political opponents, while the party has a long record of vote rigging and manipulation. None of this portends a free and fair vote.
Third, Mugabe’s plundering wasn’t alone. While the regime talks about business, it is the same cabal that systematically destroyed Zimbabwe’s economy.
Mnangagwa and his allies have enriched themselves for decades by seizing farms, mines and businesses. Zimbabwe reportedly has $15 billion in missing diamond mining revenues.
The notion that these same people are suddenly reformers who can engineer a robust recovery is farcical.
Finally, there are the war crimes. In the early 1980s, government forces murdered an estimated 20 000 civilians, including women and children, in the operation known as Gukurahundi, or in the local Shona language, “the rain that washes away the garbage.”
A chief architect of the massacres was Mugabe’s state security chief at the time: Emmerson Mnangagwa.
To this day, not a single officer or politician has been held to account. Mnangagwa, who publicly dismissed its victims as “cockroaches,” was asked about the massacres in Davos.
He played down the events and refused to apologize.
Whitewashing the junta serves only to deny Zimbabwe a genuine democracy.
Lending new money to a kleptocratic cabal only strengthens the forces of corruption.
And embracing a war criminal abets crimes against humanity and turns our backs on the survivors who are yearning for justice and accountability.
Zimbabweans, after suffering for so long, deserve better from the international community.
By Jeffrey Smith and Todd Moss. This article first appeared in the Washington Post.