Tsitsi Dangarembga has been shortlisted for this year’s Booker prize for her novel This Mournable Body, which follows Tambudzai — a young, impoverished woman in Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare — as she tries to take control of her destiny and pull herself up into a better future.

On July 31, three days after her nomination for the Booker longlist was announced, Dangarembga was arrested for protesting against the government. The author and filmmaker stood in a public place holding a placard which read “We want better. Reform our institutions.”

She was taken away by the police, charged with intention to incite public violence and held in custody overnight. Although released on bail, her court hearings continue being postponed upon non-appearance of the prosecutors. Dangarembga, who was protesting against this very kind of inefficiency prevalent in Zimbabwean government organisations, calls it a “symptom of how this country is run.”

As her court hearing is pushed forward yet again, a number of writers, including Kazuo Ishiguro, Carol Ann Duffy, Philippe Sands, Sebastian Barry, and Nobel prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, have called for all charges against Dangarembga to be dropped, stating that peaceful protest is a human right.

The arrest took place after police and soldiers were deployed in Harare to clamp down on planned demonstrations against the Zimbabwean government, which is headed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, October 11th, 2020