Former United States diplomats have described Monday polls as a mere political charade and urged the world’s biggest economy to be wary of deeply engaging President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

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In an article published by the US Council on Foreign Relations titled Zimbabwe’s Upcoming Election Is a Political Charade: Why the US Should Be Wary of Engaging Mnangagwa, Michelle Gavin and Todd Moss said after visiting the country, they were left convinced that Mnangagwa was “a big pretender”.

“We hoped to find signs of genuine progress that would justify a significant change in US policy and new commitments to working with Zimbabwe’s government,” Gavin and Moss wrote on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, we came away convinced that what we witnessed was more political theatre than good faith and that the United States should be deeply wary of engagement with Mnangagwa.”

Gavin served as senior Africa director at the National Security Council and as the US ambassador to Botswana in the Barack Obama administration while Moss served as deputy assistant secretary of State in the George Bush’s administration.

The two visited Zimbabwe as part of an independent delegation of former senior US diplomats with long experience in the country in order to see for themselves what had changed since former President Robert Mugabe’s departure.

Mnangagwa, a long time Mugabe enforcer, took over from his former boss on the back of a military-aided power transition last November and has been promising to usher in free, fair and credible elections to make a departure from the country’s past of gross human rights violations and disputed polls.

The 76-year-old leader had also promised to end Zimbabwe’s international isolation and has since launched an international public relations campaign to end Zimbabwe’s status as an international pariah and attract foreign direct investment.

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