02 August 2015

We Are Not Lions...

I am as bewildered as the ordinary Zimbabwean as to why the death of what essentially was a big, wild cat has managed to unite the world in mourning. The excitement has risen to the extent of seeing my Twitter Timeline and Facebook homepage flooded with hashtags such as #cecilTheLion, #WalterPalmer and even, sacrilege of sacrileges, #jeSuisCecil. Demonstrations have been organised, petitions signed and Jimmy Kimmel was so moved by the events in Zimbabwe that led to Cecil’s death, that he shed tears on his show. In 24 hours alone, the hashtag #CecilTheLion racked up three quarters of a million tweets. Zimbabwean Twitter was soon alight with tweets of bewilderment and slight mirth as we watched this global display of grief over the death of one of our lions.

Honestly, shrink him a little bit and he's nothing more than a cat! A glorified cat!

The backlash was inevitable though; some Zimbabweans are now feeling slighted by the international media, who have thrust a dead lion, into the limelight ahead of what they feel are more deserving issues. Like the case of political activist Itai Dzamara who was kidnapped four months ago and is still missing or a government seemingly hell bent on digging now that the economy has reached rock bottom; issues like rocketing unemployment and an ever fragmenting ruling party facing off with a fractured opposition. But in the plethora of commentary both for and against Cecil The Lion, I find something deeply disturbing. In criticising Western Media for their focus on this story, Zimbabweans are silently overlooking our own silence on our own stories. 

Men and women on the far side of the planet have taken to their streets to protest for the rights of a lion they will never see. Yet in Zimbabwe itself, we have held our relative peace as nine thousand people have lost their jobs in two weeks according to President Robert Mugabe himself. We have looked and mocked each other on Twitter as we watched Mrs Mugabe essentially award herself a Doctorate from the country’s leading University, the #DrAmai hashtag trended for a few weeks but at the end of the day, we have let her keep her dubious degree. We watch as government bickers openly, Ministers are spied on and political parties fragment into more pieces than they are Christian churches and in all this we seem to have failed to bring as much attention to our own issues as outraged white Americans and ‘Western Media’ have bought onto the case of one dead lion.

One assumes Cecil is in Lion Heaven singing Hakuna Matata....
Our voices all over social media have never been as united as they have been in this weird pro/anti Cecil The Lion universe we have been thrust into. Our willingness to analyse the legality of extraditing Dr Palmer has never been as in depth as our analysis of Doctorates falling from heaven into the laps of ruling party members.  And even when our voices have reached levels matching the current brouhaha, action has not matched Western efforts over a dead lion. In one day Jimmy Kimmel has raised USD 150 000 for Cecil The Lion. This is not to negate nor ignore the tireless voices who have spoken out over the past decade, organisations and individuals alike, who have fought for Zimbabwe. But this is to question the many who have remained silent in the face of the few who have acted and spoken, risking livelihoods, lives and limbs.

 Part of it is due to the eternal optimism of Zimbabweans, what else has taken us through hyperinflation so terrible the government could no longer fit enough zeros onto the local currency before it collapsed? What else has taken us through almost a decade of electricity cuts, water cuts, understaffed and underequipped hospitals? Where the citizens of almost any other country in Africa would have long ago declared enough to be enough, we have simply held onto the belief that tomorrow is another day and maybe, just maybe, tomorrow will bring something better with it. The rest is fear. Fear of a repressive regime that rules in a country where opposition leaders get severely assaulted by the national police, where political activists disappear, where outspoken Catholic Archbishops like Pius Ncube are silenced with nationally broadcast ‘leaked’ sex tapes. 

But in failing to address the optimism that has led us nowhere nearer to regaining the glory of our yesterday nor face the fear that has bound us to inaction, Zimbabweans are demonstrating that as much as we might cry for this lion, this alpha male who was king of Hwange National Park, we leave our story, by default to be told for us by the ‘Western Media’ and foreigners who will always care for whatever their heart chooses to care about. And in failing to stand up for our own stories, speak out with our own voices, we fail to be fearless or brave or agents of change on the broken scene of our country’s landscape. We fail to be lions. 

Tywin of House Lannister: A True Lion

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