An emerging perspective on Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) in Zimbabwe is that increased authoritarianism in governance has enabled elite capture of wildlife resources and silenced local people's voices. This paper qualifies this perspective, showing how ordinary people continue to raise their concerns about local governance. In the Mbire district, people's interpretations of an upsurge in lion attacks on livestock and people in early 2010 took on a dimension of social commentary on the evolving governance arrangements in the district and beyond. Beneath an apparent human–wildlife conflict lie complex human–human conflicts about access to, and governance of, wildlife resources. Interpretations of the lion attacks built on two distinct epistemologies – a local religious discourse on spirit lions and an ecological one – but invariably construed outsiders as the ones accountable for local problems. This construction of outsiders is also a salient feature of Zimbabwean political discourse. Local voices thus constitute a widely understood discourse of protest.