Why take it out on Cecil the Lion?

Conway Tutani

Is there a more majestic animal than a lion? I doubt. It is no wonder the killing of Cecil the Lion in Hwange National Park last month is still making headlines worldwide. Tourists across the globe had taken a shine to the imperious but laid-back, easy-going, friendly Cecil.

By Conway Tutani

Their sense of loss is understandable because of that sentimental attachment. Although lions have a brutal streak, there is something irresistably and universally adorable about them.

Furthermore, people who had never heard about Cecil were outraged by the circumstances of his death. Lured from Hwange National Park by the now infamous trio of American dentist Walter Palmer, South African professional hunter Theo Bronkhorst and Zimbabwean safari operator Honest Ndlovu, the lion was initially shot with an arrow by Palmer. He then finished it off with a bullet some 40 hours later.

Enjoying the slow and painful death of an animal makes you a complete psychopath. It’s no different from the now-banned practice of fox hunting in Britain that involved setting a pack of dogs on a fox and then chasing it on horseback, usually in traditional dress.

When foxes are ripped to pieces by hounds — all for the enjoyment of onlookers — is there anything sporty about that? If it’s a sport, how come the same side always wins?


It’s the same with the so-called sport-hunting in which Cecil suffered unbearable pain for nearly two days before being shot dead. That was most wicked and cruel. As a dentist, Palmer knows how excruciating pain can be. So, he should have been the last to inflict pain on anyone or any creature. But he did this to Cecil the Lion. This is most sadistic for a dentist like Palmer who is highly trained in pain management.

This, more than anything else, is what outraged people across the globe. That’s why the story is still reverberating, hitting 500 000 reactions on Facebook a week ago.

But this does not mean that those horrified by the callous killing of Cecil have no other issue/s of concern. No. We should rightly be outraged by the abduction and disappearance of political activist Itai Dzamara five months ago and the continuing economic collapse which is now taking its toll on jobs with a vengeance.

The Dzamara abduction and disappearance is an issue that the public is actively and emotionally invested in. It’s not that people have become inured to rights violations, far from that. These things and many more concern people. And so does the so-called sport hunting which people have raised objections against. If anything, the Cecil the Lion killing has shown how going viral — spreading information or opinions rapidly from person to person via the Internet, email or other media — can be used to reinvigorate the somewhat sagging campaign for the return of Dzamara.

Zimbabweans, I am afraid to say, still lag in this and have no one to blame, but themselves. CNN, BBC and other media have a strong and vibrant footprint on Facebook and Twitter so are able to determine the most popular stories of the day globally and will duly give them prominence based on that. Should they apologise for being in touch with the consumers of their products? Well, that would be a first.

Unlike here where we get a staple diet of propaganda because most of the information accessible to the public is actively shaped by the ruling Zanu PF party’s interests, in free media environments it’s mostly people talking to each other. There is genuine dialogue and debate with many and varied insights. This draws more and more people into the issue. Not to mention that it’s good for business.

But we should bear in mind that if we don’t bother about what we deem to be little things, then we may find we allow the big things to slip through our fingers and our voice as citizens will mean nothing — enter dictatorship!

That said, what I have really found over the top is the conspiracy theory postulated by our own Environment minister, Oppah Muchinguri. She said: “One can conclude with confidence that Dr Palmer being an American citizen had a well-orchestrated agenda which would tarnish the image of Zimbabwe and further strain the relationship between Zimbabwe and the US.”

Well, this is not borne by facts. The matter is basically about the commission of a crime and corruption, not some outlandish political conspiracy.

One, it’s not as if Palmer was sent on a special mission by the US government to kill Cecil the Lion. Palmer does not have a clean record at home. He is a repeat offender. He has been charged in his native US in the past for breaching hunting laws when he illegally killed a bear in neighbouring Canada and in another case, he settled the matter by paying a huge sum of money. So, Muchinguri’s remarks are not worthy of any serious consideration.

Second, it’s about the lining of the pockets of political and business elites. It’s a chain of power that cannot be separated.
It’s about the colour of the money — the greenback — not the colour of the skin. There was something in it for everyone involved. Where there is muck, there is brass. Where there are dirty jobs to be done, there is money to be made — ask African chiefs who made loads of wealth from selling their subjects into slavery by whites.

In the same vein you have all of a deputy editor in the State media postulating: “The white man sets the agenda and we must lap it up. I only read about the lion this week yet hear it’s now more famous than all our liberation heroes.”

Well, going by the over 20 000 likes on his Facebook wall, dancehall chanter Tocky Vibes of Aenda Nenyika fame is now “more famous than all our national heroes”. Could it be because “the white man sets the agenda”? The same with Jah Prayzah with his over 32 000 likes? For what it’s worth, fame is earned, not awarded. And is it a crime to be “more famous than all our national heroes”?

This shows the absurdity of taking an ideological stance seeing the white man’s hand everywhere about every issue without taking in the facts of the matter. This is based on one’s political beliefs rather than from actual analysis of a specific situation or event — like having an answer before hearing the question. This gives true meaning to this saying by 20th century British statesman Winston Churchill: “A fanatic is one who won’t change his mind and can’t change the subject.”

Indeed, it’s always white man this, white man that to suit their own narrative.

It’s really sad and tragic when it comes to this. It’s like forcing rugby rules in a football match just because you are a rugby coach.

Even if you are at your wits’ end, please don’t take it out on Cecil the Lion — after all, he is dead.