Booker-longlisted author Tsitsi Dangarembga freed on bail in Zimbabwe

By Alison Flood

The Booker-longlisted author Tsitsi Dangarembga has been freed on bail after her arrest during anti-corruption protests in Zimbabwe last week.

The acclaimed writer, who was longlisted for the 2020 Booker prize for her novel This Mournable Body, documented her arrest on Friday with another protester, Julie Barnes, in the Harare suburb of Borrowdale. The author was carrying placards calling for reform in Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government, and for the release of Hopewell Chin’ono, a journalist arrested recently during a nationwide crackdown on protesters.

“Friends, here is a principle. If you want your suffering to end, you have to act. Action comes from hope. This the principle of faith and action,” Dangarembga wrote on Twitter before her arrest.

According to Agence France-Presse, Dangarembga was charged with incitement to commit violence and breaching anti-coronavirus health regulations, and freed on bail on Saturday. The author and Barnes have been ordered to return to court on 18 September.

“I’m happy to be out in the fresh air,” Dangarembga told reporters as she left Harare magistrates court, adding: “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.”

She added on Twitter: “Friends, thank you for your solidarity. Everyone who spread the news of my and Julie Barnes’ arrest contributed to our safety and highlighted the ongoing erosion of civil liberties and clampdown on the nation in Zimbabwe. Lets keep acting for reform in #Zimbabwe. It’s ours too.”

In a statement issued on Friday, Amnesty International said: “The brutal assault on political activists and human rights defenders who have had the courage to call out alleged corruption and demand accountability from their government is intensifying. The persecution of these activists is a blatant abuse of the criminal justice system and a mockery of justice.”

The crackdown by security agencies on anti-corruption demonstrations saw hundreds of police and soldiers on the streets of Harare, with inhabitants ordered to stay indoors. Government officials described the protests over soaring prices, inadequate public services and allegations of corruption at the highest levels of Mnangagwa’s government as a “planned insurrection”.