An air of normality has settled over Zimbabwe, but is it more political theatre than good faith?

One day in late December last year, Violet Gonda stepped off an airliner into the humid heat of a Zimbabwean summer.

It was the first time Ms Gonda, one of Zimbabwe’s most prominent broadcasters, had set foot in her home country since she was exiled by Robert Mugabe nearly 20 years before – and she was not at all sure she would not be arrested.

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“But the immigration official knew exactly who I was. He just said, ‘Welcome back, Ms Gonda.’ He wanted me not to do any journalism. When I objected, he wrote a note and told me to take it to the Media Commission for accreditation.”

It was a slightly disorienting first encounter with what Emmerson Mnangagwa, the incumbent president, has called his “new…

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