MDC leader Nelson Chamisa. Picture: TIMESLIVE
MDC leader Nelson Chamisa. Picture: TIMESLIVE

Zimbabwean opposition leader Nelson Chamisa on Wednesday snubbed an invitation from President Emmerson Mnangagwa to attend  a meeting of 2018 presidential candidates, saying the political climate was not conducive to such talks.

Zimbabwe is  facing its worst crisis in more than a decade. Inflation has soared and there are shortages of cash, fuel, medicines and basic commodities.

On Tuesday, thousands of teachers began a national strike for higher wages and to be paid in US dollars as the local bond note surrogate has lost its value.  Weeks ago doctors and nurses at public hospitals made the same demands.

The Movement for Democratic Change's (MDC's) popular leader, who narrowly lost last year's presidential election, said he would join a national dialogue when the Zanu-PF government halts state-sponsored violence against citizens.

Several leaders of  the 21 parties invited to the meeting were at State House, Mnangagwa's official residence, on Wednesday. They represented less than 1% of the vote.

The election was largely a two-horse race: Mnangagwa polled 2,4-million votes and Chamisa 2,1-million. Other parties garnered less than 200,000 votes.

The MDC accused Mnangagwa of imposing himself  as an umpire when such talks needed a neutral moderator.

Past political dialogue, in particular talks that preceded the government of national unity pact of 2008 between Zanu-PF and the MDC, was mediated by Southern African Development Community representatives.

''It is also our view and position that genuine dialogue can only take place when a conducive environment has been created for the same," Chamisa said in a statement to journalists.

“In this respect the people of Zimbabwe and the MDC call  for the following: an immediate cessation of all forms of violence against the people, including rape, killings, shootings, torture,  abductions; and a genuine and transparent process to bring to book those responsible for [harming] defenseless citizens."

He also demanded that the government guaranteed  the security of all citizens and stop all "arbitrary arrests and mass trials".

Chamisa said on Twitter that the  presidency was still disputed.  ''We need genuine dialogue under a credible convener and mediator.'' 

Meanwhile, Mnangagwa urged those at Wednesday's meeting to  accept his legitimacy.

“I suggest that we all accept the results of our harmonised elections as a legitimate expression of the Zimbabwean people, in order to focus on the next elections  in 2023.

''Before then, it means all of us in our different capacities, must accept the challenges which we face as a sovereign nation with a view of making positive contributions,” he said.