The national South Africa writers association has called on Zimbabwe authorities to stop the harassment of authors, journalists and activists after the arrest of novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and journalist Hopewell Chin’ono in the past months.
The National Writers Association of South Africa (NWASA) in a statement condemned the arrest of awarding winning author Dangarembga and journalist Chin’ono as well as politician Jacob Ngarivhume for their call against corruption in government.
“The National Writers Association of South Africa notes with deep concern the repression meted out to Tsitsi Dangarembga, including imprisonment, unjust prosecution and continuing repression,” Lebogang Lance Nawa, the secretary general of NWASA said in a statement.
“We condemn this, even as we condemn the attempt to stifle the voices of writers such as Hopewell Chin’ono, activists such as Jacob Ngarivhume and dozens of other ordinary Zimbabweans who are exercising their rights of free speech.”
Chin’ono and Ngarivhume were arrested on charges of inciting public violence and they spent over a month in prison before being freed on bail.
Dangarembga, a nominee for this year’s Booker Prize was arrested and detained for a day for carrying placards in her neighborhood calling for reforms in government.
NWASA applauded Dangarembga “for her stand on human rights, transparency, for accountability and for proper oversight of government practices in relation to its Covid-19 response.”
“This detention of Dangarembga and others was a shameless attempt to avoid scrutiny and accountability. It signifies again the distance between the government of Zimbabwe and its people. We have watched with a sense of outrage the footage of Zimbabwean police beating its citizens,” Nawa said.
He urged the charges against Dangarembga, Chin’ono and other activists to be dropped.
“We are deeply concerned that country appears to be held together by violence and fear. In this context we stand with the people of Zimbabwe just as they stood with us during our fight against apartheid,” Nawa said.
“NWASA believes in Freedom of Expression as a core and fundamental principle. We demand that charges against Tsitsi Dangarembga be dropped. We make the same demands for all others who were jailed, imprisoned and charged for exercising their rights of free speech. We condemn the crackdown on the work of journalists who play a key role throughout the continent allowing the public to be informed of positive actions and rights violations, and to hold leaders and public servants accountable.”
NWASA also denounced Nigeria for using the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) for harassing, torturing, imprisoning innocent people and committing extra-judicial murders.
NWASA called for the full reform of the police system in Nigeria and the arrest and prosecution of SARS officers involved in the infringement of human rights.
“We add our voice to those speaking out against the continued police harassment, arrest, detention and torture of peaceful protesters against police brutality. These protesters are part of building and strengthening a culture of justice, human rights and democracy in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and throughout the African continent,” Nawa said.
The writers association urged the South African government to act in condemning the latest repression in Zimbabwe and Nigeria.
Nawa said the South Africa government should consider “to give refuge and home to distressed cultural activists who flee persecution from their countries and seek safety and security within our borders.”