Acclaimed Zimbabwean novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga was acquitted on Monday by the country’s High Court for staging an anti-government protest in 2020, for which she had initially received a six-month suspended jail sentence and a fine.
Dangarembga was found guilty by a lower court in 2022 on charges of participating in a public gathering with intent to incite public violence while breaking COVID-19 protocols following a protest criticizing the government’s efforts to deal with corruption and a struggling economy in July 2020. Dozens of political activists were arrested at the time.
“I can confirm that she has been acquitted. As her lawyers, we are grateful because she had not committed any offense in the first place,” said lawyer Harrison Nkomo.
He said the High Court judges did not immediately give reasons for the acquittal.
🔴PROMINENT author and playwright Tsitsi Dangarembga and her co-accused, Julie Barnes, have been acquitted of inciting public violence by the High Court after a lower court had convicted them for staging a peaceful demonstration in #Harare.
— NewsDay Zimbabwe (@NewsDayZimbabwe) May 8, 2023
Having been a fierce critic of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government and fighting for years against corruption and demanding reforms, Dangarembga maintained during her trial that Zimbabweans have the right to demonstrate.
Opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume, who was arrested at the same time as Dangarembga for organizing protests, was sentenced last week to four years in prison on charges of inciting violence.
Dangarembga’s first novel, “Nervous Conditions,” won the African section of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1989. Her book “This Mournable Body” was nominated for a Booker Prize in 2020.