Urgent Interventions

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 andrenowned writer Tsitsi Dangarembga was arrested last Friday while she wasparticipating in an anti-corruption march in Harare. She was released on bailon Saturday, August 1. Her arrest is indicative of an intensification in thesystematic repression of civil society in Zimbabwe, said the Observatory forthe Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT), calling for the chargesagainst the writer to be dropped.

Ms. Tsitsi Dangarembga, a 61-year-old figure of African feminismand award-winning novelist, was arrested on Friday, July 31 around midday by agroup of armed police officers while she was participating in ananti-corruption demonstration in Borrowdale, a suburb of the Zimbabweancapital. Ms. Dangarembga reported her arrest on Twitter. In the days leading upto her arrest, she had been speaking out on social media against the arrest ofjournalists and other defenders, activists and protesters involved in theorganisation of the July 31 nationwide anti-corruption demonstrations,including
Messrs. Hopewell “DaddyHope” 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 notablyaccused of “participating in a gathering with the intention to incite publicviolence”.

“The arrest of Tsitsi Dangarembga and the charges against her constitutean unfortunate new stage in the systematic repression of human rights defendersand civil society in Zimbabwe”, said AliceMogwe, FIDH President and Director of DITSHWANELO -The Botswana Centre for Human Rights. “Zimbabwe authorities shouldrespect, under all circumstances, the internationally recognized rights tofreedoms of expression and peaceful assembly”, she added.

Ms. Dangarembga was arrested along with other peaceful protesters, whowere bundled into a truck full of police officers armed with AK-47s and riotgear. When arrested, she was carrying placards calling for reforms and for therelease of detained journalist Hopewell Chin'ono.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) has discouraged thepolice from unnecessarily detaining persons, as the holding cells do not havethe capacity to observe COVID-19 safety measures.

“The rise in gross human rights abuses by lawenforcement officials is appalling in Zimbabwe. Charges against TsitsiDangarembga must be dropped, and Hopewell Chin’ono, Jacob Ngarivhume as well asall arbitrarily detained defenders should be immediately and unconditionallyreleased”, concluded Gerald Staberock,OMCT Secretary General.

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

Press contact:

· 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 (theObservatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation AgainstTorture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent orremedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCTare both members of ProtectDefenders.eu , the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented byinternational civil society.