Author Dangarembga to challenge arrest warrant; due to headline Kenya event

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By Agencies

Renowned Zimbabwean filmmaker and author Tsitsi Dangarembga is planning to challenge an arrest warrant after she failed to appear in court last month where a magistrate was due to deliver judgment in her application for discharge on charges of incitement to violence.

This comes are reports from Kenya indicated Dangarembga was due to headline the main draw at the Artistic Encounters event at Cheche Books in Nairobi, Kenya. It will be Tsitsi’s second showing on the Artistic Encounters stage after the 2019 running by Thandi Sebe.

The author was back home in Zimbabwe in July 2020 and released on bail along with fellow protester Julie Barnes for staging an anti-government protest in Harare’s suburb of Borrowdale. She was standing near the road, holding a poster that read “We want better — reform our institutions.”

Dangarembga was charged with inciting public violence, but after two years and appearing before the court more than 25 times the trial has still not started and the author has filed to have the case dismissed.

A magistrate’s court  was due to rule on her request, but issued an arrest warrant when she failed to show up. “According to the law, any person who defaults coming to court must be issued with a warrant of arrest,” said magistrate Barbra Mateko.

Dangarembga is in Germany seeking medical treatment, said her lawyer Chris Mhike.

She told TimesLIVE she intends to cancel the arrest warrant when she returns to Zimbabwe and she “expects to be able to do that without incident”.

“The warrant of arrest is administrative.  I am required to go to court to have it cancelled when I return to Zimbabwe,” she said.

“I expect to be able to do that without incident.  I have had warrants of arrest against me before because my work frequently involves travel abroad.  I was able to have the warrant cancelled each time.”

The Berlin International Film Festival has called for the acquittal of the award-winning author.

In a joint statement, Berlinale directors Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian said the government of Zimbabwe should clear Dangarembga and Barnes of all charges or drop the case.

“As an institution that stands up for freedom of speech and freedom of artistic expression worldwide, we ask the government of Zimbabwe to clear Tsitsi Dangarembga and  Julie Barnes of all charges, or to drop the case. Both women have consistently campaigned for freedom in courageous and artistically compelling ways.

“The right to free speech is anchored in Zimbabwe’s constitution, and to deny that right to these women would be unconstitutional.”

The ruling on the application for discharge will be handed down on August 4.