Award-winning author Tsitsi Dangarembga is on trial in Zimbabwe over an anti-government protest. Due to illness, she did not appear in court. Now there is an arrest warrant.

In the trial against the author and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga, a court in Zimbabwe has adjourned the decision on her possible exoneration. The reason for this is that Dangarembga did not appear for the court date on Monday. The judge issued an arrest warrant for Dangarembga.

Dangarembga, who is currently in Germany, was unable to travel to Zimbabwe for the court hearing due to health reasons. Her lawyer had already informed the court about the illness last week. The judge ruled that the arrest warrant could be lifted once Dangarembga produced a valid medical certificate upon her return home. The decision on Dangarembga’s possible exoneration has been postponed until August 4th.

Appeared in court 26 times in two years

Dangarembga, who received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 2021, is accused of public incitement to violence, breach of the peace and bigotry in Zimbabwe. She took part in anti-government protests in July 2020 and was briefly arrested. The 63-year-old has to justify herself before an anti-corruption court in the capital Harare, which reports directly to President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The trial is about the very issues that the author, who is married to a German, has been campaigning for in books and films for decades: discrimination, human rights, persecution and corruption. If convicted, Dangarembga faces several years in prison. The author has appeared in court 26 times in the past two years.

The court’s decision was “disappointing but not surprising,” said Barbara Groeblinghoff, head of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Zimbabwe, the German Press Agency. A decision on the defense application could have been made without the author’s presence. “Now Dangarembga has the sword of Damocles hanging over his head for another six weeks,” says Groeblinghoff.

Dangarembga’s husband Olaf Koschke described the court’s decision as “further harassment”. Dangarembga plans to travel to Zimbabwe as soon as her state of health permits and to present the medical certificate to the prosecutor as soon as she arrives, Koschke said.

Last year Dangarembga also received the PEN Pinter award. The association PEN Berlin calls for the procedure to be stopped “immediately”. The allegations lacked “any legal basis and only serve to repress and create uncertainty”.

The human rights situation in Zimbabwe has not improved even after long-term president Robert Mugabe, who has since died, was ousted. A February European Council statement criticized the intimidation of the political opposition and other voices critical of the government.