By Thandiwe Garusa
British Peer Baroness, Kate Hoey has expressed doubt over the credibility, freeness and fairness of Zimbabwe’s upcoming 2023 general elections in the wake of a clampdown on dissent.
This comes after renowned Zimbabwean author and filmmaker, Tsitsi Dangarembga, was Thursday convicted of inciting violence.
Dangarembga and her friend, Julie Barnes, were arrested in 2020 for holding a silent protest which saw them march along Borrowdale Road in Harare holding placards, calling for political reforms and the release of two government critics.
“Any pretence that Zimbabwe is a country where the upcoming elections could possibly be free and fair has vanished,” Hoey said.
Soon after their conviction Dangarembga and Barnes penned an emotional letter saying the State was trying to silence and intimidate its critics.
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“Our hearts are heavy at this outcome, because this conviction could set the precedent that a Zimbabwean —indeed a person in Zimbabwe — is not free to walk down a road with another citizen displaying peaceful messages that convey their opinions on issues that affect them as people living in this country,” the letter reads.
“We must no longer joke that there is freedom of expression in Zimbabwe, but no freedom after expression. We must take this conviction as a warning sign that our freedom to peacefully express what we want as Zimbabweans in public discourse is being stripped away from us.
“We are being intimidated into silence and inaction as repression and corruption increase, and the quality of our lives, our hopes for our children’s lives and our children’s confidence in their futures decreases.
“Freedom, justice and a dignified life are our rights as Zimbabwean inhabitants of our planet. We urge you all to stand peacefully for freedom, justice and dignity in our country always. We promise you that we will always do the same.”
Dangarembga and Barnes have expressed intentions to appeal against conviction and sentence.