Tsitsi Dangarembga and Barnes acquitted over anti-government protest
The conviction and sentencing of award-winning and renowned novelist, filmmaker and cultural activist Tsitsi Dangarembga and Julie Barnes, a pro-democracy campaigner, has been set aside by the High Court.
The two had approached the court seeking an order to set aside their conviction and sentence for promoting public violence after they were arrested two years ago for taking part in an anti-government protest.
Barnes confirmed that they have been acquitted.
“Appeal allowed. Conviction set aside, both Tsitsi Dangarembga and I were found not guilty, and therefore acquitted,” she said.
Dangarembga and Barnes were on 29 September 2022 convicted by Harare Magistrate Barbra Mateko and sentenced to pay ZWL70 000 each or three months imprisonment in default of the fine and in addition three months imprisonment wholly suspended for five years on condition that each of them does not commit any offence involving participating in a public gathering with intention to promote public violence, breach of peace or bigotry.
The duo, represented by Chris Mhike of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), had been on trial after they were arrested on 31 July 2020 and charged with participating in a public gathering with intention to promote public violence, breach of peace or bigotry as defined in Section 37(1)(b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
During trial, prosecutors alleged that they participated in a demonstration in Borrowdale suburb in Harare while holding some placards inscribed “Free Hopewell, free Jacob #Zimbabwe”, “We want better reform our institution” and “Free our journalists”.
Through their lawyers, the two filed a notice and an appeal against both conviction and sentence at the High Court arguing that Magistrate Mateko fundamentally misdirected herself in finding the duo guilty in the absence of evidence linking them to participating in a public gathering with intention to promote public violence, breach of peace or bigotry.
ZLHR on Monday said it was seized with matter and it had sent Harrison Nkomo to represent the two.
“At Harare High Court, we are representing Tsitsi Dangarembga, Zimbabwean award winning novelist, filmmaker and cultural activist and pro-democracy campaigner Julie Barnes, in an appeal in which the duo is seeking to overturn both their conviction and sentence after they were fined ZWL70 000 and given suspended jail sentences for allegedly participating in anti-govt protests in 2020.
“Dangarembga and Barnes are represented by Harrison Nkomo of ZLHR,” ZLHR said.
Accordingly, the duo was found not guilty.