Award-winning Zimbabwean novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga denied charges of inciting violence at the opening of her trial in Harare on Wednesday over a protest she made in July 2020 in which she called for reform.
“We didn’t arrest anyone, didn’t force anyone to join us,” she said outside a court in the capital. “We just marched in our corner,” added the 63-year-old feminist figure, whose novel “Nervous Conditions” became a classic in the region and far beyond, and was the first published in English by a black woman in the southern African country.
She was arrested while walking through the streets deserted by the pandemic at the end of July 2020 with a journalist friend and a handful of other protesters. On her large placard, held in front of her with both hands, was this sober message: “We want better. Let’s reform our institutions”.
Tsitsi Dangarembga did not speak to any passers-by, nor to the press, “I stayed in my corner”, she added, insisting that her small demonstration had not disturbed many people. She took the stand Wednesday after the presiding judge refused to grant her time to better prepare her defense.
The author said she also held up another sign that day calling for the release of fellow journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who was jailed on similar charges of inciting violence.
She denied that she had resisted arrest but acknowledged that she had asked the police what law she had broken. there is a difference between expression and incitement,” the woman of letters told the court.
Arbitrary arrests and repression against the opposition have become more severe under the presidency of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded Robert Mugabe in 2017, according to several rights NGOs.