By FARAI MUTSAKA
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — World-renowned author Tsitsi Dangarembga was found guilty Thursday of promoting public violence in her home country of Zimbabwe for participating in an anti-government protest in 2020 that called for reforms.
She was fined around $120 and given a six-month suspended jail sentence.
Dangarembga and another woman, Julie Barnes, were arrested after walking down a street in a suburb of the capital, Harare, holding a placard that read “We want better. Reform Our Institutions.” They were part of a low-key anti-government demonstration but were arrested and detained along with several others, who were also taken to court.
The charges against Dangarembga have been criticized by rights groups as part of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent attempts to silence opposition in the long-troubled southern African country. Mnangagwa has been accused of responding with force to any criticism ahead of a presidential election next year.
Dozens of people — opposition supporters, political activists, journalists, church leaders, trade union members and student leaders — have been arrested and brought to court on charges that legal experts say amount to harassment.
Dagarembga and Barnes argued in court that they were merely exercising their right to freedom of expression.
The judge, Magistrate Barbara Mateko, disagreed and ruled the pair were intent on provoking violence.
“Clearly they wanted to pass a message. It was not peaceful at all,” Mateko said in her judgment. “They were expressing opinions and it was meant to provoke.”
The 63-year-old Dagarembga won the prestigious Peace Prize of the German Book Trade last year. Her works include the “Nervous Conditions” trilogy, made up of the bestselling “Nervous Conditions” (1988), “The Book of Not” (2006) and “This Mournable Body” (2018).
Dangarembga was the first Black woman to win the prize and was praised by the award’s judges as “not just one of her country’s most important artists but also a widely audible voice of Africa in contemporary literature.”
They pointed to her commitment to promoting culture, human rights and political change in Zimbabwe.
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