The intellectual poverty exhibited by people calling for (poor and hungry) Zimbabweans not to mourn Cecil the lion because there are bigger issues to worry about is exactly what is wrong with Zimbabwe at the moment.
This demonstrates the inability to multitask or to have more than one priority. The furore from the don’t-mourn-Cecil-the-lion camp is similar to the one-priority approach which has gotten our country into the parlous state it is in today. Robert Mugabe, a teacher by profession, concentrated more on rolling out education for all soon after independence – while not paying enough attention to other sectors of the economy.Â Years later he found himself with thousands of graduates but no industry to employ them, no economy to absorb them and no food to feed them.
The people who think mourning Cecil the lion is tantamount to taking our eyes off the ball are wrong. The message they are sending is that Zimbabweans are supposed to sit around moping about our poverty and despicable politics all the time and should not involve ourselves with other equally important issues.
Objects of terror
One Zimbabwean brother, a doctoral student in the United States, wrote about how lions are ”objects of terror” and that in Zimbabwe we do not mourn lions. I agree with my brother but I also disagree on many levels. Lions are ”objects of terror” if humans encroach on their territory or if they find themselves among humans. Hostility between animals and humans is a matter well documented in the history of mankind.
However, lions are still part of what makes Zimbabwe’s rich wildlife tapestry. This richness in wildlife and other natural wonders bestowed on Africa by the creator has allowed the continent to pocket millions in tourism. Zimbabwe is no exception. The fact that the general populace does not benefit from tourism is an issue for another day and has more to do with our corrupt government. But that does not take away the importance of wildlife tourism to Zimbabwe’s economy. That is if the economy is in the right hands of course. The fact that most Zimbabweans did not know Cecil the lion is not because they didn’t want to know or that if they knew him they could not love him just as much as the foreign tourists. It is because the ordinary populace of my beloved country does not have money to spend on tourism. The ignorance of ordinary Zimbabweans does not take away Cecil the lion’s species importance to the tourism sector. Indigenous tourism is poor in most countries across Africa – and Zimbabwe is no exception.
Therefore I say of course we can mourn Cecil the lion – but that does not mean we have forgotten about how broken our Zimbabwe is. It does not make us oblivious to the fact that millions face starvation, nor does it make us bigots who jumped on a western animal love bandwagon. No it doesn’t.
It makes progressive Africans who have grown in leaps and bounds intellectually and have moved forward enough to embrace new approaches to life, animal rights included. It makes us Africans who are able to take advantage of the advent of social media and fight for the preservation of our natural resources – which the rich and powerful want to continue plundering one way or the other.
I think we are conscious enough to do this for Cecil the lion and for other issues too. I therefore stand by my decision to mourn Cecil the lion because I am proudly Zimbabwean and I can play my part in helping preserve what is left of our wildlife. I am proudly Zimbabwean enough to remember that as I mourn Cecil the lion I have not lost my focus on issues that have bedevilled my country for over a decade.