Novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and co-accused Julie Barnes arriving at the Harare Magistrates Court to hear a magistrate’s verdict following their trial for participating in an illegal gathering with intent to cause public violence.
Dangarembga recognized internationally for her work; her latest novel, This Mournable Body, was short-listed for the Booker Prize recently.
Her debut novel, Nervous Conditions (1988), was the first to be published in English by a Black woman from Zimbabwe, and was named by the BBC as one of the top 100 books that have shaped the world.
“Tsitsi Dangarembga was arrested for exercising her right to peaceful protest. Her arrest and the long drawn out trial against her is clearly intended to send a frightening message to anyone in Zimbabwe who wants to exercise their right to free expression and criticize their government,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, director of the PEN/ Barbey Freedom to Write Center.
“If she is convicted on these spurious charges, it will further stifle free expression and human rights in Zimbabwe. We urge the authorities to immediately drop the charges and to respect and uphold the right to free expression and association.”
She was arrested alongside journalist Julie Barnes in July 2020 for joining a peaceful demonstration criticizing the Zimbabwean government’s efforts to handle corruption and the struggling economy.
Both were charged with breaking COVID-19 lockdown measures to hold an illegal gathering and inciting violence in the Anti-Corruption Court—the only court that does not report to the Justice Ministry, but directly to the president’s office.
The trial has been delayed over the course of the last two years, and Dangarembga appeared in court nearly 30 times.