, ,

Why Matabeleland must invest in non-violence

Hiroshima (1945), Auschwitz (05/1940 – 01/1945), Gukurahundi genocide (‎January 1983 – April 1984), Halabja chemical attack (1988) and the Rwanda genocide (04 – 06/1994) among other catastrophic examples save as tragic reminders of the boundless human potential for violence and inhumane conduct. Matabeleland must not shy away from fighting for its freedom and liberty for this and future generations. However, we need to fight smart; avoid misplaced calls for violent political campaigns.

A quick literature search shows that while violent campaigns maybe glamorous to some, they are not more effective than non-violent ones. Chenoweth and Stephan (2011) cited by Kendrick (2014) studied 323 violent and non-violent political campaigns between 1900 and 2006. To qualify for the study, a movement had to be substantial in size, constitute at least 1,000 active participants. The findings are summed below:

CampaignSuccess rate %Partial Success %Complete failure %
Non-violent                53           20about 20
Violent                23about 10            60
Data source: Chenoweth & Stephan (2011) cited by Kendrick (2014)

The study shows that non-violent campaigns were more than twice as likely to be successful compared to violent campaigns, twice as likely to be a partial success in comparison to violent campaigns and about three times less likely to be a complete failure compared to violent campaigns.

Evidence and not cowardice justifies the non-violent campaign endorsement. Consideration of non-violent campaigns does not equal the postponement of a solution to Mthwakazi’s problems as much as violence will not naturally lend itself to speedy solutions to our problems. I have argued in the past that the military intervention in Sudan may have actually delayed South Sudan’s independence. The Basques, Tamils, Chechens, Tauregs, Kurds in Turkey and Iran, DRC rebels, rebels in Syria and other separatist movements have all so-far failed to win independence through armed struggle. Lakey (2012) points out that an armed struggle failed to rid Chile of the dictator Augusto Pinochet yet a non-violent militant approach managed to oust him in 1988. The 2011 Arab Spring was non-violent.

Matabeleland has stagnated not as a result of a failure to execute a violent revolution but due to an absence of a robust non-violent strategy to fight for its freedom and liberty. From both a political and moral point of view, no form of violence can be justified; violence cannot be our default response to injustice. Violent revolutions are not necessarily more efficient than non-violent ones. Bombs are twice less effective in comparison to non-violent protests; they are not a substitute for good planning that non-violent approaches require from Mthwakazi citizens to fight for their freedom and liberty.

While I respect the right of individuals or groups who believe in violent campaigns, calling for such interventions from ‘behind the tallest security fences’ is hypocritical. I believe a violent campaign is not only unjustifiable, it is not the right route for Mthwakazi to pursue its freedom and liberty. We need to appreciate that we have no exclusive access to violent means, there is no objective reason to suggest violence is more efficient than non-violence and there is no evidence that given free choice Mthwakazi citizens would choose violent over non-violent campaigns. Non-violence is not synonymous to non-action; it does not translate to the postponement of interventions aimed at solving Matabeleland’s problems.


Harford, B. (2008) Nonviolent Resistance, Reform, & Revolution [Online]. Available from: http://www.crmvet.org/info/nvrrr.htm (Accessed 09/05/16).

Kendrick, D. T. (2014) Violent Versus Nonviolent Revolutions: Which Way Wins? [Online]. Available from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-murder-and-the-meaning-life/201404/violent-versus-nonviolent-revolutions-which-way-wins (accessed 09/05/16).

Lakey, G. (2012) The more violence, the less revolution [Online]. Available from: http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/the-more-violence-the-less-revolution/ (Accessed 09/05/16).


One response to “Why Matabeleland must invest in non-violence”

%d bloggers like this: