Home » Health » Zimbabweans bemused by Cecil the lion's global celebrity (Africa Review)

August 5, 2015

As the global brouhaha over the death of Cecil the lion refuses to die down, many Zimbabweans’ reactions to the beast’s death has shifted from indifference to bemusement.

With many economic and social ills, the attention Cecil has been receiving since his death is considered by many to be an unnecessary sideshow and takes the limelight away from more pressing problems.

Cecil, referred to as Zimbabwe’s most popular lion, was killed at the beginning of July, but it took the best part of three weeks for the Zimbabwean media to report on the death, all but rubbishing claims of the lion’s popularity.

“The manner in which the story has been represented by international media seems somewhat far-fetched from the lived realities of most of the people,” blogger and law professor Alex Magaisa wrote on his blog.

While the global media reacted with outrage to the death, bemused Zimbabweans soon took to social media, creating memes of animals like zebra celebrating the death of the famous lion, saying the jungle would be more peaceful following Cecil’s death.

Activists argued that there were more pressing issues to worry about, than what they believed was an obscure lion.

Itai Dzamara, an anti-government activist has been missing for more than 150 days, with suspicions he may have been kidnapped by state agents. His fate remains unknown.

The activist’s brother, Partson, accused the international media and some Zimbabweans of wasting time on “trivia” as Cecil’s story eclipsed Mr Dzamara’s disappearance.

“The killing of Cecil the lion was bad,” Partson lashed out on Facebook. “However, I am shocked how most of us have suddenly become ‘animal activists’ as we romance trivia.

“If we could all become this vocal when it comes to real issues such as the abduction of xlink:type=”simple” xlink:href=” https://www.facebook.com/itai.dzamaraItai Dzamara

…I am sure our nation will be better. This is tomfoolery and it’s making me sick.”

Former Education minister David Coltart, a vocal critic of President Robert Mugabe, also took to social media to express shock at the way Cecil’s death had overshadowed human rights issues in Zimbabwe.

“As much as I sympathise with those upset by this incident, this is just ridiculous,” he tweeted, making reference to Mr Dzamara’s disappearance and Zimbabwe’s history of disputed elections.

“The world’s anger at hunter (Dr) Walter Palmer is understandable but misplaced,” Mr Coltart added.

Extradition demand

A number of Zimbabweans on social media also felt that the killing of the lion, previously unknown to most people except foreign tourists, paled in comparison to the multiple crises facing the southern African country.

“At the root of this matter is the lawlessness brought about by Zanu PF’s abrogation of the rule of law in Zimbabwe,” Mr Coltart said.

“Cecil is but one of thousands of animals slaughtered since the year 2000 as a result of Zanu PF’s disastrous land invasions and the shocking under-funding of national parks.

“That the minister responsible for parks should now adopt such a “principled” stance is hypocrisy of the worst order,” the outspoken former Education minister added.

Environment minister Oppah Muchinguri last Friday issued a statement demanding the extradition of Walter Palmer, the American dentist who admitted killing Cecil.

Dr Palmer said he believed the hunt was legal.

Journalist Desmond Kumbuka lamented that the focus on Cecil’s death was a wasted opportunity for the world media to expose the real problems facing ordinary Zimbabweans.

“Enough time and cyberspace have been wasted on the millions of words said about a creature that neither speaks, understands nor shares the emotions of its benefactors,” Mr Kumbura posted on Facebook.

span class=”textexposedshow”A visit to any of the country’s cemeteries on any day will confirm the toll of the current crisis.

span class=”textexposedshow”Multitudes can no longer afford basic health care, struck by afflictions like stroke, although ordinarily controllable, can mean certain death.

span class=”textexposedshow”It’s too much of an unhealthy situation for humans for us to worry about the death of some lion called Cecil.”

Judging from social media reactions to Cecil’s death, most Zimbabweans have too much on their plate to worry about a dead lion.

Just last week, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa announced that Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product (GDP) will only grow by 1.5 per cent, hardly uplifting news for the depressed economy.

Recently the country’s Supreme Court relaxed labour laws, making it easy for employers to fire employees just three weeks later 12,000 workers had lost their jobs.

It is estimated that at least 85 per cent of the country’s population is unemployed and with the latest ruling more are set to be jobless.

Donations pour in

Cathy Buckle, a prominent blogger in Zimbabwe, said Cecil’s slaying could help bring back attention to the country’s worsening economic and political problems.

“The painful reality is that all this suffering, by people and animals, goes on largely unnoticed by a leadership in Zimbabwe which is obsessed with itself, mired in greed, corruption, opulence and power struggles,” she wrote.

“Cecil’ the lion, 24 baby elephants, four million Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, 8 million Zimbabweans at home: we are all the same in that we are totally dependent on a morally bankrupt leadership.

“Cecil the lion has put Zimbabwe back in the world spotlight and for that we are grateful because we have endured so much, for so long.”

However, Canada-based commentator Kuthula Matshazi believes Zimbabweans are missing the point by taking umbrage at the way the world media has focused on Cecil’s tragic death.

He said Dr Palmer had to be brought to justice as a way of bringing back the rule of law in Zimbabwe, which he said would benefit the wider economy.

span class=”null”Poaching is endemic in Zimbabwe. The rule of law has to be upheld considering the manner Dr Palmer poached the lion,” he said.

span class=”null”We should not ignore the flagrant disregard of law otherwise we fail to enforce our constitutional duty and set a dangerous precedence.”

span class=”nullMr Matshazi said the hunting industry was subject to regulation, and a violation of the rules should alarm everyone.

span class=”null”Like all industries, the hunting industry is subject to regulation. Failure to enforce the law will lead to escalated illegal hunting schemes depleting our social and economic resources – the animals,” he said.

span class=”null”Secondly, wildlife management is a significant activity within the tourism sector. For instance, our game parks attract visitors, bring in foreign currency and investment, and sustain jobs.”

span class=”nullThe outpouring of anger over the manner Cecil was killed has been a double-edged sword for Zimbabwe’s tourism industry, with a ban on bow hunting around the Hwange National Park likely to hit hard the thriving safari hunting sector.

span class=”nullOperators say hunters have already started cancelling trips and this could spell doom for over 700 game scouts employed in the industry.

span class=”nullOn the other hand, the stories about the lion’s death have seen donors stampeding to donate towards conservation efforts that have received little government funding over the years.

span class=”nullAccording to UK’s Guardian newspaper, the death of Cecil the Lion had sparked donations of more than Pound 500,000 to Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), who set up an appeal to fund future lion research work.

Cecil the lion was being studied by WildCRU , which runs a project at the Hwange National Park.

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