Zimbabwe: Acquittal of imprisoned opposition leader shows growing cases of misuse of justice system to target critical voices

Responding to yesterday’s High Court acquittal of opposition leader, Jacob Ngarivhume, who was sentenced in April to 48 months imprisonment for leading protests against government corruption, Khanyo Farisè, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa, said:

While his conviction has now been quashed, it is unconscionable that Jacob Ngarivhume spent eight months in prison simply for organising a peaceful protest. He should never have been tried, let alone convicted in the first place.

Khanyo Farisè, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa

“His imprisonment is a travesty, and an affront to Zimbabwe’s constitution and the country’s international human rights obligations. No one should be jailed for exercising their human rights. The authorities must uphold and ensure Jacob Ngarivhume’s right to an effective remedy including adequate compensation.

“Jacob Ngarivhume’s case is just one example of an alarming increase in the misuse of the justice system to target, intimidate and harass opposition leaders, human rights defenders, activists, journalists, and other critical voices. Authorities must stop weaponizing the justice system as a tool to persecute opposition figures or anyone who speaks out against allegations of corruption.”

“Authorities must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of everyone including to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.”

Other recent cases include activist, Tsitsi Dangarembga, who was acquitted in May after protesting with a sign in the empty streets of Harare during the 2020 lockdown. Opposition politician Job Sikhala spent more than 500 days in prison after being convicted of “obstruction of justice”. Although his conviction was overturned in November, he remains in pre-trial detention for incitement to commit violence and disorderly conduct. Charges of communicating false information against journalist and government critic Hopewell Chin’ono were quashed by the High court in April 2021, after the court ruled that the law used by police to arrest him no longer exists.


Jacob Ngarivhume, the leader of Transform Zimbabwe, an opposition party, was arrested after leading and organising the 31 July 2020 anti-corruption protests. Ngarivhume was convicted by Harare magistrate Feresi Chakanyuka on 28 April 2023 and sentenced to 48 months imprisonment, with 12 months suspended. He was accused of inciting public violence by using his Twitter handle to convene the 31 July 2020 nationwide anti-corruption protests which were violently dispersed by security forces.