Zimbabwe's often-arrested anti-corruption journalist Hopewell Chin'ono has turned to protest music, and a song he released on social media has gone viral. The song, "Dem Loot," has also been covered by other artists and linked in numerous posts, but some are warning Chin’ono may be arrested for it.
In his song, Chin'ono is singing to Zimbabwean youths, telling them that corruption is the cause of their country’s poor economy and the average citizen’s poverty.
Several versions of the song - set to a reggae beat - have been released since its launch and fans have posted their amateur videos.
Chin'ono, who until now was known as a journalist, says he is happy with the development. He has an emphatic “no” to critics who say he is now getting into politics.
“I think we have a role in society, as citizens, to ask the most important and pertinent questions about why things are the way they are. It’s not just about the song. The song is just an entry point into the Zimbabwean discourse. Now people are asking: Why is it there is a broken state in Zimbabwe? Why is it the roads are bad? Why is it people do not have clean drinking water? Why is it 95% of Zimbabwe’s potential work force is not going to work?”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has arrested Chin’ono three times since July on charges that he abused social media - not for speaking out against corruption.
Tendai Chirau, acting deputy secretary for youth affairs for the ruling ZANU-PF party, says Chin’ono sang just to get sympathy ahead of his pending trial - not to oppose corruption.
“Any talk of corruption without taking evidence to institutions fighting corruption like ZACC and courts is mere grandstanding. We call anyone in Zimbabwe who has evidence of corrupt activities to approach responsible institutions,” Chirau said.
ZACC is the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission which arrested several politicians for graft. But critics say it’s mainly targeting enemies of Mnangagwa.
Alexander Rusero, a former senior journalism and international relations lecturer at Harare Polytechnic college, says he is not surprised by the way the government and its sympathizers have condemned Chin’ono’s song.
“Hopewell’s messages have since proved to be effective because of the wider audience, the wider reach in terms of fighting corruption, government-instigated corruption. And the government is frustrated because it does not have strategies and methodologies of countering such effective method where information about corruption is relayed at an alarming and faster pace than any other time before.”
“Dem Loot” has attracted hundreds of thousands of views and comments on social media. As fans continue to enjoy the song, some are warning Chin’ono - through their versions - that he may go back to jail because of it.