The despot of Zimbabwe was ousted in 2017. But much remains of his tyranny and misrule.
This month, after President Mnangagwa raised the price of gasoline by 150 percent, protesters hit the streets. Mr. Mnangagwa arguably had no choice, since the government could not continue subsidizing fuel, and the protests were inevitable. The problem was that security forces replied with all the viciousness of the Mugabe era — a crackdown like what Mr. Mnangagwa used to mete out when he was in charge of internal security and earned the nickname “Crocodile.” Soldiers and unidentified thugs went door to door in Harare beating and arresting scores of people at random; 12 shooting deaths were reported; the internet was shut down.
.. Whether he ordered the crackdown remains unclear; one rumor is that his vice president, Constantino Chiwenga, a hard-line former commander of the army who backed Mr. Mnangagwa in the coup, was trying to undermine the president for his own ends.
It almost doesn’t matter. What does is that many Zimbabweans — and potential international investors — concluded that things had not changed with the exit of Mr. Mugabe. The ZANU-PF political machine that the old dictator ran since independence in 1980 was still in command and up to its old ways.
..the 40-year-old challenger, Nelson Chamisa, claimed fraud, and when his supporters gathered in protests, government forces crushed them mercilessly.
.. The economic challenges before Zimbabwe are enormous: vast debts, a battered infrastructure, hyperinflation, soaring unemployment. Confronting them will require foreign aid and investment, lifting the international sanctions imposed during Mr. Mugabe’s rule and restoring a glimmer of optimism for the future in a population that will be asked to make more sacrifices, like the fuel price increase, before things can get better. Under American law, removing sanctions requires a nonpartisan army and respect for the rights and freedoms of all people.
It is far from clear whether Mr. Mnangagwa or ZANU-PF are up to the challenge. But if they have any hope of surviving in office or lifting Zimbabwe out of the mess they helped create under Mr. Mugabe, the time to start is now, by immediately reining in the security forces and opening the dialogue Mr. Mnangagwa has pledged with the opposition and civil society. The United States and other potential donors could create an incentive by preparing a major package of assistance once the Zimbabwe government shows it is really committed to change.