There is no dispute across Matabeleland of an immediate need for a social, economic and political reform that will grant the region greater autonomy. The greater argument lies in what the right strategy is. I personally have serious reservations on the greater case for calls for violent resistance at this point. Campaigners for violent resistance have yet to convince people that theirs is not a ‘strategy’ born of impatience.
What needs acknowledging straight off is that neither violent resistance nor nonviolent resistance have magic bullets that would suddenly wipe out all of Matabeleland’s socio-political problems. Matabeleland needs a well thought out flexible strategy that will achieve not only territorial autonomy but usher in a more durable and internally peaceful political dispensation.
I am skeptical of the broader political capital of violent resistance and I do not believe it will be a proportionate and appropriate strategy right now. The first and most significant casualty of the militarisation of the region will be rationale and nonviolent resistance. At this point we need more and not less nonviolent means. We need to galvanise the Matabeleland public into joining the nationalist agenda; we have to present people with a strong argument; we need high levels of participation in whatever measures; guns and bombs are not necessarily the answer.
I do not believe that those calling for violent resistance do so out of conviction of its superiority over nonviolent means rather, the perception is based on a lack of understanding and the false premise that nonviolent resistance does not work in a volatile Africa.
The reality is that nonviolent resistance has, in the last 20 years, been more successful compared to violent resistance; it was successful in both Egypt and Tunisia in 2011, the nonviolent efforts of Zanzibar in Tanzania and Barotseland in Zambia should not be lost to Matabeleland. During the same period, besides South Sudan finally gaining independence after years of fighting and heavy human loss, violent means have achieved precious little, examples of failure include Biafra in Nigeria, Katanga in the Democratic Republic of Congo among others.
The violent means campaigners are perhaps guilty of gross misunderstanding of the modern political reality in sub-Saharan Africa including the SADC region. Underestimating the growing impact of international and regional peacemaking activities and operations, preventative diplomacy missions, and the willingness to persecute perpetrators of grave human rights abuses and similarly defined efforts in the regional politics is reckless deception.
International and regional military and political bodies are very active in most conflict zones including such countries as the Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Central Africa Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo while the recent South African intervention in Lesotho effectively stopped a potential military coup in that country.
The rise of China as an external force in sub-Saharan Africa presents another political dimension in the region. China’s main goals are economic while its foreign policy retains a principle of non-interference; it is not lost to China that stability is essential for its economic activities hence it tends to back states, and not insurgents. Despite views by some violent resistance proponents that foreign help is not required, the fact remains that such support is vital, if not indispensable.
Let us as a people of Matabeleland accept our responsibility for our political future; the penalty for staying away from politics will be allowing bullies to impose a reckless strategy. The greater case for violent resistance remains a myth; an objective debate and not a politics of intimidation will be important. We need a positive international image; a credible strategy and not bullets and bombs will win us more friends than enemies in a world rapidly losing patience with armed insurgents.