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Walter Palmer, the lion killer, must not be extradited to Zimbabwe

By Tanonoka Joseph Whande

Our nation is under duress.

Our leaders are under pressure, both political and economic.

Tanonoka Joseph Whande
Tanonoka Joseph Whande

Our leaders are all in transition and are fighting for their own existence, not for the nation.

They believe national assets belong to them to sell and pocket the money.

Remember who “supported” Emerson Mnangagwa to replace Joyce Mujuru?

Do you see who is now trying to push Mnangagwa out of the way?

At least Mnangagwa cannot claim I never told him: “They will never allow him to be president.”

We are our own enemies.

The world, as we experience it on a daily basis, is a very unforgiving place yet it contains all the comforts that life requires for life to exist but at a cost almost equal to life itself.

People around the world have now become much more involved in issues pertaining to the environment, wild life, climate change and animal welfare than before.

Today, more than before, there are issues that we used to take for granted but that we are now viewing with a pleading hope to balance the over-burdened earth for our own survival. Politicians, who must renew their relevance with voters every so often, have a limited lifespan while the people have a permanent affinity with the earth.

I remember the revolt against the outrageous mink coats – once an unchallenged symbol of wealth, elegance and stardom.

Not anymore.

The world has become quite sensitive to issues that concern the reckless killing of wild animals.

The choices we make as individuals always somehow find their way into the world’s arena and we all either benefit or suffer because of the choices made by individuals in our society.

Intercontinental and international treaties are agreed upon and put into effect without much consultation with the nationals concerned.

A recent case involved the killing of Cecil, a ‘Zimbabwean lion’ (if there is such thing). Cecil, was allegedly lured out of the game reserve where it was “protected” and was shot with an arrow then tracked for 40 hours before being finished off with a gun.

Cecil was then beheaded and had his head taken away to be stuffed and displayed as a memento to what some sick people believe is “professional hunting”.

But Cecil was a star both in and outside Zimbabwe.

He was popular with tourists and known to locals in his vicinity. After all, he was the country’s largest known male lion who wore an electronic collar for Oxford University researchers as he led “scientists” to learn more about lions as if the locals cannot tell these white folks all they need to know.

We knew our animals and had mutual respect for each other because we lived with each other without even set boundaries.

Now all our animals have names and wear electronic collars.

Surprisingly, Cecil’s killing ignited an international outcry like never before.

Something hit me as odd that there was such an avalanche of condemnation, worldwide demonstrations and petitions to the US president urging him and other governments to hand over the hunter, American dentist Walter Palmer, to the government of Zimbabwe to answer for his murderous deed.

It is odd that the killing of a lion galvanized people around the world but the abduction of fellow journalist, Itai Dzamara, by Robert Mugabe’s goons has not elicited much mention worldwide.

Abducted on March 9, 2015 Dzamara’s whereabouts are still unknown.

In the days following Cecil the lion’s demise at the hands of the American, Cecil hogged the limelight worldwide.

South Africa’s ROi Africa, a media monitoring company, said that almost two-thirds of the news the week following the killing focused on Cecil the lion.

In South Africa, “Cecil took up 65% of coverage, with the Springbok rugby team (6%) and Proteas cricket team (5%) a distant second and third” while in South African social media, “Cecil made up 51% of posts surveyed. In second place was Eskom at 16%, followed by President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead at 10%”.

On the international stage, ROi Africa said that Cecil was mentioned in 34% of news media surveyed, followed by US presidential hopeful Donald Trump at 16% and the death and funeral of Bobbi Kristina Brown at 9%.

In early August, Delta Air Lines joined other airlines, notably Qantas, Singapore Airlines,   KLM, Iberia, IAG Cargo, and Air France who said that they had henceforth banned the transportation of hunting trophies on their airlines.

This followed a move by US lawmakers who pushed for a law to block hunters from bringing home endangered species “trophies.”

The bill, aptly named CECIL (the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act)” makes it “illegal for trophy hunters to bring back parts of any species proposed or listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973”.

There were several petitions among which one demanded the extradition of dentist Walter Palmer to Zimbabwe to answer for his crime.

Palmer apologized and said he had followed the proper channels to go on the hunt and was possibly misled by his hunting guides in Zimbabwe who arranged for his hunting safari and paid US $50, 000.

The professional Zimbabwean hunter who organised the hunt, Theo Bronkhorst, is awaiting trial in Zimbabwe for “failing to prevent an illegal hunt” so is Trymore Honest Ndlovu, the owner of the farm on which the hunt took place.

“We are appealing to the responsible authorities for his (Palmer’s) extradition to Zimbabwe so that he can be held accountable for his illegal action,” said Zimbabwe’s Environment minister.

No, I say!

Palmer should not be extradited to Zimbabwe.

First, Robert Mugabe craves the limelight and there is nothing he would cherish more than humiliate the Americans through this man.

Second, if America extradites Palmer into Mugabe’s hands, it would also be contradicting itself over the “targeted sanctions” that are still in effect because of what the Americans said, among other things, were gross human rights violations.

Third and most importantly, some of us really want to see Palmer punished for this as a deterrent to like-minded people who kill animals for fun around the world.

Palmer’s arrival in Zimbabwe will turn the whole thing into an international political circus that will only draw attention to Mugabe and overshadow the need to punish Palmer and his ilk.

Palmer must be punished but not in Zimbabwe where we might be conned into losing focus on the crime committed.

The butcher of Liberia, former President Charles Taylor, committed his genocidal crimes in Africa, was tried in the Netherlands and is serving his sentence in the UK.

The crime that Palmer is accused of is of international concern, just like genocide, and many countries are signatories to treaties protecting certain species. It is, therefore, possible for Palmer to stand trial elsewhere and actually serve his punishment like he should.

If the world is serious about this, Palmer must not get away with it.

In the meantime, steps must be taken to discourage trophy hunting. It is a lie that local communities benefit from “organized trophy hunts” or “responsible hunting” (whatever that is). If it were true, imagine where South African peasants would be today since, according to the Professional Hunters Association, that country is making $675 million a year from the hunting industry.

I know of no “local communities” in Zimbabwe who benefitted from the killing of animals in their area.

As people are busy trying to survive to the next day, they are forced to ignore the importance of the balance our animals bring to our lives. The respect we once accorded our animals is gone.

Hapachina chinoyera; yangova zvake zvake!

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