British Peer Baroness, Kate Hoey has expressed doubt over the credibility, freeness and fairness of Zimbabwe’s upcoming 2023 general elections in the wake of a clampdown on dissent.
She was responding to a court outcome in which award-winning Zimbabwean author and filmmaker, Tsitsi Dangarembga and her friend Julie Gabriel Barnes were found guilty of inciting violence in 2020. Hoey posted on Twitter:
Any pretence that Zimbabwe is a country where the upcoming elections could possibly be free and fair has vanished.
Dangarembga and Barnes were arrested in 2020 for holding a silent protest which saw them march along Borrowdale Road in Harare holding placards, calling for political reforms and the release of two government critics.
Following their conviction Dangarembga and Barnes issued a joint statement saying the State was trying to silence and intimidate its critics. They said:
Our hearts are heavy at this outcome, because this conviction could set the precedent that a Zimbabwean —indeed a person in Zimbabwe — is not free to walk down a road with another citizen displaying peaceful messages that convey their opinions on issues that affect them as people living in this country.
We must no longer joke that there is freedom of expression in Zimbabwe, but no freedom after expression. We must take this conviction as a warning sign that our freedom to peacefully express what we want as Zimbabweans in public discourse is being stripped away from us.
Dangarembga and Barnes have expressed intentions to appeal against the conviction and sentence.
Zimbabwe goes to the polls next year amid an escalation of intraparty and interparty violence.