Media Statements

Call to Africa to immediately stop the harassment and persecution of cultural activists and citizens

The National Writers Association of South Africa (NWASA) notes with deep concern the repression
meted out to Tsitsi Dangarembga, including imprisonment, unjust prosecution and continuing
repression. 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.

NWASA salutes the Zimbabwean novelist, playwright, and filmmaker for her stand on human rights,
transparency, for accountability and for proper oversight of government practices in relation to its
Covid-19 response. NWASA and its members agree with her when she asserts that Zimbabwe is a
signatory of the African Charter on Human Rights and, as such, is legally bound to respect human rights,
including freedom of speech and protections against arbitrary arrest and detention.

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.

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.
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
positive actions and rights violations, and to hold leaders and public servants accountable.
NWASA calls on the government of Zimbabwe to end repression and to work with its people for a
prosperous, equitable and just Zimbabwe.

We call on justice-loving people everywhere, including writers and artists everywhere, to join us in
condemning the closing of democratic space in Zimbabwe. We also call on the South African
government to take a firm stand and issue the strongest sanction against this latest round of repression.
Furthermore, we call upon our government (especially municipalities) , as well as South African citizens
to give refugee and home to distressed cultural activists who flee persecution from their countries and seek safety and security within our borders. Let us integrate them within our fold and make their experiences part of our daily cultural lives.

NWASA also at this time aligns with writers – including Panashe Chigumadzi, Ayobami Adebayo, and
NoViolet Bulawayo – in denouncing the continued persecution of ordinary Nigerians through the Special
Anti-Robbery Squad. Noting the long list of innocent Nigerians who have been harassed, falsely
imprisoned, tortured and extra-judicially murdered by SARS, we call for a full reform of the police
system in Nigeria. We call for the arrest and prosecution of police officers – whether members of SARS
or the general Nigerian Police Force – who have been involved in infringement of human rights, acts of
repression and gross violation. 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.

Issued on behalf of NWASA ISC by Dr. Lebogang Lance Nawa