By Mwizenge S. Tembo, Ph. D. Emeritus Professor of Sociology
Zibalwe was a sprawling village of 500 people on the banks of the Lundazi River in the Eastern Province of Zambia in Southern Africa. Hundreds of villages at the time were located in the middle of the African savannah wilderness amidst wild animals such as Thomson gazelles, mbabala or elands, impalas, lions, leopards, elephants, hyenas, cape buffaloes and many more. Prides of lions frequently roamed and migrated from the Luangwa Valley over the plateau to Malawi. Zibalwe Village was located in the lion migrated zone.
One early evening, Headman Zibalwe addressed all the village residents. Lions were in the area and had already attacked and killed cattle in neighboring villages. He told everyone that they should not venture out at night for any reason and to stay in their huts. He explained that the lion modus operandi (m.o) was to for one lion to harass one hut household and they then attack anyone who comes out of their huts to help the potential victim. The Headman emphasized that that’s how lions hunt in the wild. Everyone went to bed securely bolting the hut doors the best they could.
In the middle of the night, a woman everyone in the village knew was a widow began to scream for help.
“Help!!! A lion is bashing at my door!!! Please help me!!!!”
No one was coming out as the woman continued to scream. Headman Zibalwe could not stand it anymore. He grabbed his muzzle loader and carefully emerged out of his hut. He stood on the edge of his hut chiwundo corridor to load his gun as his eyes were adjusting to the pitch darkness of the night. Suddenly a lion pounced on him violently grabbing his upper thigh and lower abdomen. He yelled for help. Knowing the headman’s voice all the men rushed out of their huts armed with spears hollering as the lion was trying to drag him into the bush. The lion was scared off escaping into the bush, dropping him.
The men carried the wounded Headman Zibalwe on a tree branch made stretcher 21 miles to the small hospital in Lundazi where he died. His wounds were fatal. A lion mauled Headman Zibalwe Tembo to death in 1942. Legend has it that all the men of the village hunted the lion that had mauled him until they killed it. It was believed that once a lion had tasted human flesh, it ate nothing else as human flesh has salt. It is believed this is how humans as a group survived lion attacks for over 150,000 years of evolution.
Lions are attacking 330 million Americans today in form of gun deaths from mass shootings, suicides and other gun related-deaths. There are a total of 433.9 millions guns in America. There are 120.5 guns for every 100,000 residents. There are 81 million gun owners of 330 million Americans. The next country is the small country of Yemen which has a per capita of 52.8 guns per 100,000 people.
In 2021, 48,830 people died from gun injuries. There have been over 200 mass shootings so far this year. If you are already yawning at this with your standard about a dozen responses, may be that is just the problem; everyone needs guns for self-defense against violent criminals, mental illness, the second amendment, it is the fault of Democrats or Republicans, violent gun crimes in urban democrat controlled cities especially in black South Chicago, guns don’t kill people it is people who use guns that kill people, violent gun videos and movies have nothing to do with mass shootings and gun violence, we can’t have any gun control because of the slippery slope, etc. etc. None of these justification will solve or reduce the epidemic. America has faced existential threats. One of them was the Second World war during which the country led the allies to defeat NAZI Germany and Japan. Americans realized the existential threat to the nation and acted in unison to defeat the threat in spite of internal social divisions.
If all the 330 million Americans do not come out of their huts in the middle of the dark night as the lion that is gun violence is attacking many of our fellow citizens, many Americans will continue to tragically needlessly die. The residents of the Zibalwe Village could have responded by saying someone else was going to chase the lion or they could have employed a dozen excuses not to act.
This means that gun manufacturers, the National Rifle Association (NRA), Republicans, Democrats, Maga members, all citizens must unite to defeat the epidemic of gun violence. Gun violence does not discriminate. We are all either gun victims today or tomorrow.