The main opposition in Zimbabwe has rebuffed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s call for dialogue to ease the rising political tension, terming it insincere.
The southern African country has been on the edge since January 14 when protests against a steep increase in fuel prices turned violent.
According to human rights groups, a heavy-handed response to the unrest by the military saw the death of 12 people and 78 others left nursing gunshot wounds.
President Mnangagwa invited all the 21 candidates that took part in last year’s presidential elections for a meeting on Wednesday to discuss a ‘framework for national dialogue’ to re-unite the country.
However, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance led by Mr Nelson Chamisa said its leader would not attend the meeting, accusing the president of trying to pre-empt efforts “towards genuine dialogue”.
“We have a political crisis arising out of a disputed and rigged presidential election result in Zimbabwe,” tweeted Mr Chamisa, who narrowly lost to President Mnangagwa in the July 2018 polls.
“The presidency is disputed. We need genuine dialogue under a credible convener and mediator to solve this crisis. Stop citizens’ abuses, beatings and arrests,” he added.
Mr Chamisa refused to concede defeat after accusing President Mnangagwa of manipulating the polls.
The MDC Alliance said its conditions for talks with the ruling Zanu-PF, which included demands that the military stops targeting opposition and civil society activists for abductions, had not been met.
“(We want to) underscore the civil society minimum conditions for national dialogue that are already in the public domain, including the immediate release of political prisoners, the cessation of the current clampdown by the state and the return to barracks by the armed forces; and a full disclosure of the number of citizens killed so far, those injured, and the requisite action to deal with the perpetrators,” the MDC Alliance said in a statement on Wednesday.
Last week, President Mnangagwa who took over from long time ruler Robert Mugabe in a November 2017 military coup, said he would not hold talks with Mr Chamisa until the youthful opposition leader recognised his election victory.
The Zimbabwean leader has come under pressure from the international community to end human rights abuses by the army with the UK revealing on Tuesday that it was considering tightening sanctions against Harare.