This was a game I used to play as a little girl growing up in Zimbabwe. We would sit in a circle and sing this song which warned “Stay inside, the lion devours”. Meanwhile, another little girl playing the role of the lion, would prowl around the circle in search of a victim. Once “the lion” had decided on his prey, a chase would ensue invariably accompanied by the fear-laced squeals of little children playing in the African sun.
Although most of us had never seen a lion, it was very clear in our 6 year old minds that lions were dangerous and that this favourite childhood game would look very different in the wild.
I guess Walter Palmer and Theo Bronkhost knew this too when they lured Cecil out of the protected national park area and cruelly shot him probably hiding behind a bush like cowards, surreptitiously salivating at the thought of killing the king of jungle. It’s easy to feel powerful with a bow and arrow in your hand.
As a Zimbabwean, 2 things have struck me about the story of Cecil the lion:
1. His name
Cecil is named after the Imperialist diamond digger Cecil John Rhodes who according to Wikipedia “was the founder of the southern African territory of Rhodesia” and therefore it was named after him… I won’t dwell on this too long but frankly, I didn’t realise we were still honouring him by naming lions after him.
2. The Outrage
The world is pretty mad about Cecil’s brutal murder. Jimmy Kimmel broke down on his TV show in front of an audience of 1 million. Richard Branson referred to the death of Cecil as tragic and senseless and Piers Morgan said “I’d love to go hunting for killer dentist Dr Walter Palmer, so I can stuff & mount him for MY office wall”. In summary, I think it’s fair to say the world is foaming at mouth about Cecil.
I must say, although it was moving to see the world so impassioned about matters to do with my country, the reality is, the average Zimbabwean doesn’t know who Cecil is or was. People I’ve spoken to are slightly bemused by the matter but on the whole, their world hasn’t stopped. University graduates are still selling mobile phone top-up cards on the streets of Harare, people are still cooking by fire during power cuts and those who can, are still buying (occasionally contaminated) tanks of water because the council water is scarce or unsafe.
As the old Shona proverb goes “Nhamo yemumwe, hairambirwe Sadza” which in essence means “Another man’s problems don’t stop me from eating my dinner“. In other words, life goes on.
If I had only $10 million, I’d buy 202 Zimbabwean lions, kill them and skin them. I’d give 1 skin to Itai Dzamara, the Zimbabwean political activist who mysteriously disappeared in March 2015 after speaking out about the country’s political environment. I’d give 200 skins to the 200 Chibok girls who were kidnapped whilst taking their end of year Physics exam by Boko Haram, the terrorist group in Nigeria. I’d give 1 skin to the nameless 2 year old boy in Sierra Leone who is thought to have been the first person to contract and die of Ebola in the outbreak which started in 2014 and to date has taken over 10,000 lives.
Perhaps if these precious lives had like Cecil been clothed in the beautiful garments of a lion’s mane, they too would have been worth the hashtags, the media attention, the tears and ultimately the action.