Now that the international brouhaha over the death of Cecil the lion has all but died down, I thought I could throw in my opinion on how the death of the animal could be a missed opportunity for Zimbabwe.
As has already been pointed out, many Zimbabweans had probably no clue on who Cecil was and why the world had been touched by the killing of the lion, and honestly most of us still don’t.
Without belabouring the point, Zimbabwe has millions of issues to deal with, which we think should take precedence over the death of an “obscure” lion.
Our economy is in shambles, our politics is a mess and everything that can go wrong has gone horribly wrong.
The attention Cecil received is often juxtaposed with the disappearance of Itai Dzamara, which despite its fair share of publicity did not bring as much international attention and condemnation as the killing of the beast.
In spite of all the problems we face, I think the death of Cecil was an opportunity we should have taken advantage of instead of focusing on our problems and hanging onto them and refusing to look at anything else besides our problems.
Just a cursory look at the whole Cecil saga will show there could have been some economic benefits from there, but as usual these benefits were snapped by foreigners, while we distanced ourselves from the beast.
For example HTC made a limited line of mobile phones in commemoration of the lion, a dress at an international fashion show was said to be inspired by Cecil, while the beast, dead as it is, was projected on America’s Empire State Building in a $1 million project.
Examples abound of how international players milked the death of the lion, but Zimbabwe got nothing from all this.
As I have conceded, we have problems, but that doesn’t mean the world will stop because of our issues. As a colleague usually likes to say, we as Zimbabweans think the world revolves around us.
The death of Cecil, tragic as it was, was a Zimbabwean issue, involving Zimbabweans and if there was anything that could have been gained, Zimbabweans should have been at the forefront.
We know capacity is limited in Zimbabwe, but surely we could have made T-shirts, mugs, scarves and bandanas of Cecil. There was suggestion of a bronze statue at Hwange National Park. As has been pointed out, Cecil was popular with tourists and we could have used that as a bait to lure foreigners.
If HTC can make phones in his honour, surely there was a realisation that something could be gained out of Cecil’s death and unfortunately we missed that boat.
The last time I checked, Oxford University, which was researching on Cecil before he was killed, had received more that £500,000 in donations and someone had pledged to match whatever donations had been raised.
Unbeknown to us, Cecil was an industry and we failed to capitalise on it.
The UK and China promised us some money to help combat poaching in Zimbabwe after the killing of that lion, there’s no need to overstress this point, but again Cecil’s death could have been used to spotlight poaching and that way, we could have gained more money and more mileage and we could have been slightly better off than we were yesterday.
With a better ant-poaching drive, we could have asked Oxford to invest some of that money in the country on researching other animals, but alas.
Instead, we had the environment minister issuing the most unhelpful statement ever, claiming the killing of the animal was a plot by the west to tarnish Zimbabwe’s image. See, we think the world revolves around us.
I think fortune knocked at our door, instead of answering, we were too busy nursing our troubles and we may have missed out.