Zimbabwe’s main opposition on Wednesday snubbed talks with President Emmerson Mnangagwa meant to try to resolve a political and economic crisis, saying any dialogue with the president would have to be brokered by an independent outside mediator.
Mnangagwa, who is under pressure over the deteriorating economy and a security crackdown on anti-government protests last month, invited 23 opposition leaders to a meeting to draw up terms for national dialogue.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it would take part in the talks only if they were held under the supervision of the United Nations, African union or Southern African Development Community.
“The MDC’s position is that the dialogue process must be convened by an independent mediator and not one of the disputants,” the MDC said in a letter responding to Mnangagwa’s invitation to the talks.
The MDC has said Zimbabwe’s problems stemmed from last year’s presidential vote. Mnangagwa won but MDC accused his side of rigging the results, which he denies.
Other smaller parties, however, attended the meeting at Mnangagwa’s state house offices in Harare.
In a speech before the talks, Mnangagwa said his opponents should accept his election win, and he urged them to call for the removal of U.S. sanctions on ruling party and government officials.
“Peace can never be imposed from outside but must issue from within our own society,” Mnangagwa said, in an apparent reference to the MDC demand for an outside mediator.