Best-selling Zimbabwean author Tsitsi Dangarembga was acquitted on appeal on Monday of charges of "incitement to violence" for silently protesting with a sign in the empty streets of Harare during the 2020 lockdown.
The judges of the Court of Appeal ruled against the magistrate who had condemned her in the first instance, specifying that they would make their arguments public in a second stage.
"No offense has been committed ," summarized the writer's lawyer, Harrison Nkomo. "The judges explained that she had not committed any offence," he said.
At first instance, in September, Tsitsi Dangarembga was sentenced to six months in prison.
She had been arrested in the midst of a pandemic at the end of July 2020 while walking with a journalist friend and a handful of other demonstrators, in an affluent suburb of Harare holding the sign in her hands: "We want better. Let's reform our institutions " .
The prosecution accused him of having thus incited violence and of having demonstrated "without having asked for authorization" . On the contrary, she claimed not to have spoken to any passers-by or to the press during this modest demonstration , which moreover did not provoke violence.
On leaving the court, this respected feminist figure denounced freedom of expression "increasingly reduced and criminalized" in the country, believing that Zimbabweans were now treated as "subjects" and no longer as "citizens" .
Tsitsi Dangarembga, 64, made a name for herself at the end of the 1980s with her first autobiographical novel "A fleur de peau" .
President Emmerson Mnangagwa , who succeeded Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup, is regularly accused by rights organizations of muzzling any dissenting voices, including through arbitrary arrests .
A presidential election is scheduled for August but the exact date has not yet been set.