Arbitrary arrest of Tsitsi Dangarembga

Arbitrary arrest of Tsitsi Dangarembga: a worrying turn in the systematic repression of civil society in Zimbabwe

Paris-Geneva, August 3, 2020 – The women’s rights defender and renowned writer Tsitsi Dangarembga was arrested last Friday while she was participating in an anti-corruption march in Harare. She was released on bail on Saturday, August 1. Her arrest is indicative of an intensification in the systematic repression of civil society in Zimbabwe, said the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT), calling for the charges against the writer to be dropped.

Ms. Tsitsi Dangarembga, a 61-year-old figure of African feminism and award-winning novelist, was arrested on Friday, July 31 around midday by a group of armed police officers while she was participating in an anti-corruption demonstration in Borrowdale, a suburb of the Zimbabwean capital. Ms. Dangarembga reported her arrest on Twitter. In the days leading up to her arrest, she had been speaking out on social media against the arrest of journalists and other defenders, activists and protesters involved in the organisation of the July 31 nationwide anti-corruption demonstrations, including Messrs. Hopewell “Daddy Hope” Chin’ono and Jacob Ngarivhume, who have been behind bars since July 20. Ms. Dangarembga was released on a 5,000 ZWL bail on August 1, and is notably accused of “participating in a gathering with the intention to incite public violence”.

“The arrest of Tsitsi Dangarembga and the charges against her constitute an unfortunate new stage in the systematic repression of human rights defenders and civil society in Zimbabwe”, said Alice Mogwe, FIDH President and Director of DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights. “Zimbabwe authorities should respect, under all circumstances, the internationally recognized rights to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly”, she added.

Ms. Dangarembga was arrested along with other peaceful protesters, who were bundled into a truck full of police officers armed with AK-47s and riot gear. When arrested, she was carrying placards calling for reforms and for the release of detained journalist Hopewell Chin’ono. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) has discouraged the police from unnecessarily detaining persons, as the holding cells do not have the capacity to observe COVID-19 safety measures.

“The rise in gross human rights abuses by law enforcement officials is appalling in Zimbabwe. Charges against Tsitsi Dangarembga must be dropped, and Hopewell Chin’ono, Jacob Ngarivhume as well as all arbitrarily detained defenders should be immediately and unconditionally released”, concluded Gerald Staberock, OMCT Secretary General.

In the context of the second anniversary of his disputed July 2018 election, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched a crackdown on anti-government and anti-corruption demonstrations, with hundreds of police officers and soldiers deployed in the streets across the country to suppress protests of citizens angry about ineffective public services, widespread government corruption and soaring prices.

Press contacts:
– FIDH: Ms. Eva Canan (English, French), +33 6 48 05 91 57 / Email: ecanan@fidh.org (Paris)
– OMCT: Ms. Iolanda Jaquemet (English, French), +41 79 539 41 06 / Email: ij@omct.org (Geneva)

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

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