Acclaimed Zimbabwean writer and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga was reportedly arrested this morning during a protest in Harare.
Update: Dangarembga has been released on bail and is due in court on 18 September 2020. More details at the end of this post.
Dangarembga, known for her criticism of the Zimbabwe government, is seemingly being held at Borrowdale police station in Harare, with her colleague, Julie Barnes.
The arrest took place just days after Dangarembga was named on the prestigious Booker Prize longlist for her latest novel, This Mournable Body.
AFP reports that one of its photographers saw Dangarembga being ‘bundled into a police truck… full of police armed with AK-47 rifles and riot gear’.
According to her tweets, Dangarembga believes she was arrested by a plainclothes policeman who had been following her and filming her.
Her last tweet before being arrested was: ‘Friends, here is a principle. If you want your suffering to end, you have to act. Action comes from hope. This is the principle of faith and action.’
There are ongoing anti-government protests in Zimbabwe against state corruption and the country’s struggling economy, coinciding with the second anniversary of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s disputed election. Activists have also warned of mounting human rights abuses.
Dangaremgba’s husband, Olaf Koschke, confirmed the arrest to AFP, which reports that the author was ‘carrying placards calling for reforms and for the release of prominent journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who was arrested last week under a government crackdown’.
The author’s arrest comes a day after a group of African writers published an open letter to the African Union and Southern African Development Community about the situation in Zimbabwe, and Chin’ono’s arrest in particular:
The African Union, an organisation that was quick to tell the world that #BlackLivesMatter in the wake of George Floyd’ murder and other human rights abuses by police in the United States, seems strangely silent about the violation of Black Lives in Africa.
We fear that as long as Zimbabwe continues to violate its citizens’ rights with impunity, we and fellow writers and journalists are in danger of having our rights violated in the different AU member states while the mother body stays silent.
An injury to a Zimbabwean journalist for doing their job by the Zimbabwean state thus becomes potential injury to us all by any rogue African government.
We ask that all decent human beings join us in being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. As they protest in Zimbabwe, we ask SADC, the AU and other international bodies to suspend Zimbabwe with immediate effect. We ask too that all countries that respect human and media rights cut all diplomatic ties with a country that respects none.
We demand, instead of keeping Mr. Chin’ono in detention, that the Zimbabwean authorities should prosecute the perpetrators in the Drax scandal and get back coronavirus funds. #FreeHopewellChin’onoNow
- Read the complete letter (from which Zimbabwean writers were purposefully excluded, for their protection) at The Africa Report
The JRB condemns the arrest of writers in Zimbabwe, including Chin’ono and Dangarembga, and calls for their immediate release.
This is a developing story. The JRB will update this post with new information as it arises.
Update: Dangarembga was released on bail on 1 August.
The author addressed reporters as she left Harare magistrates court, saying: ‘I’m happy to be out in the fresh air. Probably all Zimbabweans want a better life for all Zimbabweans and the people who live here, and I think that’s … a good thing to live by and to work for.’
Watch a video of her release here:
Dangarembga thanked people for their solidarity on Twitter: