Harare - Undeterred by being arrested three times in six months for tweets protesting about graft, outspoken Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin'ono has turned to song to get his message across.
In a video that has gone viral, Chin'ono has released a short free-styled reggae dance-hall track, titled Dem Loot - "They Loot" - in which he chastises rampant state corruption in the southern African country.
The song has sparked a #DemLootChallenge on Twitter and prompted versions in other genres including jazz and acapella, and using the country's traditional instrument, the mbira.
Chin'ono is seen looking poker-faced in his study as he sings in a mix of pidgin English and vernacular Shona, one of Zimbabwe's official languages.
"Lord have mercy, mercy, mercy; hospitals no medication, dem loot; ghetto youths no jobs, dem loot; no water to drink in townships, dem loot," go the lyrics.
Chin'ono told AFP he recorded the "spur-of-the-moment" track just three days after exiting the gates of a maximum security prison, where he had been held for nearly three weeks in pre-trial custody on charges relating to a tweet.
"I was in my study (and) was just playing music and then I started singing about this because it was on my mind," he said, referring to shortages of protective gear in Zimbabwe's hospitals.
"And I just sort of compressed what I was thinking about during the day into a song and then posted it on Tweeter and it went viral," he told AFP.
He was surprised by the response to what he thought "was a Sunday joke -- the message is something I say everyday on Twitter and Facebook."
On this lighter note brought to us by this Zimb couple;— Hopewell Chin’ono #NoToLooters (@daddyhope) February 3, 2021
Good night & remember that the fight against Corruption, Looting and Incompetence is in your hands!
We are in a very important Political discourse that will determine whether today’s youth will have a future or not#DemLoot pic.twitter.com/inT5HJsPB4
I shed a tear watching these youths.— Hopewell Chin’ono #NoToLooters (@daddyhope) February 3, 2021
The ultimate point is that the message is getting across.
Do you know what US$15 billion LOOTED from Chiadzwa Diamond fields could do for ALL of Zimbabwe’s 5 Central hospitals?
It would run them without shortages for 300 years!#DemLoot pic.twitter.com/A2fS4y6qh8
“They lack vision (and) now we depend on donations,” laments @SlimtheWise in this #DemLoot Rhythm and Blues version!— Hopewell Chin’ono #NoToLooters (@daddyhope) February 3, 2021
Do you know that the Government has not released the latest Auditor General’s report because of the MASSIVE looting that was done by criminal syndicates?#DemLoot pic.twitter.com/XtYbApzlAF
Chin'ono was arrested last July for tweeting that an opposition political party was planning nationwide demonstrations against President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government.
In November, he was picked up for pre-empting a judicial decision before it was handed down.
And on January 8, he was arrested for a third time for sharing a video he claimed showed a police officer beating a baby to death.
Last week he was freed on bail, but banned from using his Twitter account to post anything that might incite the public to revolt against the government.