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Why the hullabaloo about Cecil, but none about Itai?

Sunday 16 August 2015

Japhet M. Zwana

2015-08-12, Issue 739

The White world has justifiably exhibited intense righteous indignation at the depraved slaying of the 13-year-old lion known as Cecil, whose name conjures up the racist namesake who became the arch-colonialist of Zimbabwe. But why is there no similar international furore over the likely politically enforced disappearance of prominent activist and journalist Itai Dzamara?

He is 36 years old
He is a journalist
He is a human/civil rights activist
He has petitioned for the resignation of President Mugabe
He has been arrested and beaten by the secret Zimbabwean security
He had addressed an opposition rally on March 8, 2015 in Harare
On the morning of March 9, 2015, he was abducted at a barber shop by five heavily armed men.

Who is he? His name is Itai Dzamara.

The White world has justifiably exhibited intense righteous indignation at the depraved slaying of the 13-year-old lion known as Cecil. There is no doubt about the level of love that Zimbabweans have for the lion as for other animals. However, the name Cecil, conjures up the racist namesake who became the arch colonialist of Zimbabweans in the 19th century. The question remains: While the international furor over Cecil’s demise is at a fever pitch, why is that over Dzamara so low?

The headline screams in the American press said it all. They left no doubt in the public’s mind that the media considered this a grave crime against the global fauna. The New York Daily News included such headlines as: Killer, Heads you lose (cowardly lion hunter won’t get prized kill); Murderous Safari by healer, Dr. Death; America’s most hated; Dr. Death Defended; Lion Shame. Some posters read, ‘ROT IN HELL; Palmer, There is a Deep Cavity waiting for you.’

Zimbabweans have a right to be confused by all the fuss about the death of a lion, especially one bearing the name of one of Africa’s most racist colonialists that has ever lived. Zimbabwean lives matter more than those of lions that depend on the former. Zimbabwean farmers, teachers, students, laborers, health workers, artisans, journalists, etc. can use a little sympathy from the international community’s out reach to the ruling brass and pressing it to take the necessary steps to improve the lives of the citizens. They do not understand the excitement over the passing of one ‘royal’ lion in the face of a multitude of issues facing the people of Zimbabwe. They include serious water shortages, electricity breakdowns, high inflation and unemployment, corruption in higher places and lack of civil/human rights.

The international community seemed eager and ready to assist the Zimbabwean government in its efforts to locate and apprehend Dr. Palmer. It should exhibit the same zeal in aiding the family and friends of Itai Dzamara as they seek to determine his fate. The ZANU administration will not do it. It is common knowledge that though the police have offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who can disclose Itai’s whereabouts, people are not convinced that authorities are doing enough to find the kidnapped scribe.

It was stated in the 17th July, 2015 Newsday issue, that Dzamara’s family characterized President Mugabe’s position on the activist as ‘irresponsible and unfortunate.’ It is further frustrating when the leadership will not make any definitive statements on the case on account that it is too political. It is five months since Itai disappeared. The world community that is concerned about lion Cecil, whose tourism value is well known, should not place him above Itai Dzamara whose human value is far superior to Cecil’s.

The West and the rest should converge on the altar of mercy and bring pressure to bear on those responsible for Itai’s fate.

* Japhet M. Zwana is a retired Professor and Administrator at New York State University.



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