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Zimbabwean Novelists Suspended and Fined

Tsitsi Dangarembga, a renowned Zimbabwean novelist and filmmaker, was found guilty of organizing an anti-government protest and was sentenced on Thursday to a six-month suspension of the prison term and a fine. 

Julie Barnes, a friend and fellow demonstrator who was also found guilty on Thursday was on trial with Dangarembga. Dangarembga and Julie Barnes—also found guilty—were accused of violating COVID-19 guidelines by attending a public assembly to instigate public violence after staging a protest in July 2020. 

With a fine of 70,000 Zimbabwean dollars ($193; [$1 = 378.0000 Zimbabwe dollars]) and a sentence of suspension, they are still at large as long as they don't commit another identical crime in the following five years. 

The two women are first-time offenders, according to their attorney Chris Mhike, who is pleading for mercy. The judge's decision "not surprised" 63-year-old Dangarembga, who was speaking outside the court. 

At the end of July 2020, Dangarembga and Barnes were taken into custody after marching through the deserted streets of Harare while carrying a banner that read, "We want better — overhaul our institutions," before being put into a police van. The author was released on bail the next day. 

Dangarembga, a vocal opponent of President Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration who has spent years battling against corruption and calling for changes, insisted during the trial that Zimbabweans have the right to demonstrate. 

As reported by Aljazeera, Dangarembga that the repression demonstrated how gravely Zimbabwe had degraded the freedom to peaceful protest. 

The Zimbabwean government was urged to "uphold their human rights duties and abstain from targeting dissenting voices" by PEN, which promptly denounced the conviction on Thursday. 

At the time of their arrest, human rights attorneys reported that the security forces used to end protests against the government had also detained hundreds of activists. However, the government has refuted the claims of rights attorneys that there have been incidences of kidnapping and torture. 

Dangarembga informed that inhabitants of Zimbabwe are expected to remain silent and be obedient to whatever the authorities decide to do or fear arrest for peacefully expressing their differences of opinion. "Since we are not a monarchy, our role as citizens is being transformed into one of a passive subject.", they further elaborated. 

In a statement, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights expressed sadness over the conviction. 

Further, Tsitsi Dangarembga, being the first Black woman from Zimbabwe to have a book published in English, Dangarembga's debut novel Nervous Conditions earned her the African division of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 1989. 

For her book This Mournable Body, she was shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize in 2020. The two books are a part of a trilogy that follows Tambu, sometimes known as

Tambudzai Sigauke, as she grows up while examining Zimbabwean politics. The Book of Not, the second book in the series, was released in 2006.

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