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Zimbabwe: Court ruling on writer Tsitsi Dangarembga must respect legitimate rule of law

Monday 26 September 2022 - 10:40am

Photo Courtesy of CC BY-SA 4.0 (Rudolf H. Boettcher)

On 29 September 2022, a Zimbabwe Court in the capital, Harare is due to issue its verdict in a long-running case that Zimbabwe authorities brought against renowned award-winning author, playwright, filmmaker and poet, Tsitsi Dangarembga in August 2020. PEN International has been following the case with concern, with the expectation that the Zimbabwe Judiciary will deliver a just ruling in accordance with full requirements of legitimate rule of law.

Tsitsi Dangarembga, esteemed writer, poet, filmmaker, and activist, faces charges for simply exercising her right to peaceful protest. A founding member of PEN Zimbabwe and winner of the PEN International Award for Freedom of Expression in 2021, we at PEN International hold the highest respect for Dangarembga and stand with her today. We further urge the Zimbabwean judiciary to deliver the ruling in strict accordance with the rule of law. – Burhan Sonmez, PEN International President.

Tsitsi Dangarembga was arrested by plain clothes police officers on 31 July 2020, while peacefully protesting corruption with a friend. Although the arresting police officers did not state a charge at the time of arrest, she was detained at a police station overnight and arraigned in court the following day with the odd charges of ‘incitement to commit violence’ and ‘breaching COVID-19 health regulations. Ever since, she has attended Court whenever ordered to do so. PEN International, as well as other human rights and freedom of expression organisations have persistently called for the unconditional withdrawal of the egregious charges by the Zimbabwe authorities without success.

On the eve of the court scheduled ruling in this case, PEN International reiterates its earlier position that Tsitsi Dangarembga should not have been arrested in the first place, let alone prosecuted for offences she did not commit. “I expect the ruling on 29 September will bring to a complete close the persecution that Tsitsi Dangarembga has endured for more than two years, for simply showing up with a friend on a deserted street and non-violently protesting the scourge of endemic corruption in the country. I hope the ruling will be just as a contribution to the much-needed end to systematic misuse of rule of law by the Zimbabwean authorities to punish dissent.” Said Romana Cacchioli, Executive Director of PEN International.

PEN International hopes that legitimate rule of law will prevail on 29 September and that the Zimbabwe Judiciary will use the occasion to claim its space and anchor its judicial independence as a fair arbiter. “I have been watching these legal developments in Zimbabwe with great concern. The apparent targeting of a writer of great renown, with all that implies for the chilling of freedom of expression, is a matter of broad international interest. I express the hope that the courts of Zimbabwe will fully respect the rule of law, delivering justice in accordance with a proper assessment of the facts and interpretation and application of the law. This matter should be brought to an early end.” Said Phillipe Sands, President of English PEN.

For more information about Tsitsi Dangarembga’s persecution since her arrest on 31 July 2020, read here and here. PEN International will follow up on this statement after the verdict is issued on 29 September 2022.

For further information, please contact Nduko o’Matigere, Africa Regional Coordinator at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK – e-mail