Adolf Hitler did not come to power with guns blazing. He came to power legally but became a Dictator in no time by chirping away at the Constitution and the laws of the country, one piece at a time.
The laws Hitler enacted became known as the Nuremberg laws: laws against the Jews, against trade unions, against this and that. After demonising everything he didn’t like, he started killing or deporting them and eventually he ignited World War II. It all started slowly and legally.
In 1948, Apartheid in South Africa was not introduced with guns blazing either; there was no coup. Apartheid was initially a mere proclamation, it then got implemented through a series of laws like: Suppression of Communism Act, Bantu Education Act, Immorality Act, Public Order Act and a zillion other laws. Apartheid was modelled on Nazism. Apartheid then turned full blown violent and repressive amargeddon.
Zambia’s One Party State enterprise did not come into power with guns blazing either. It was done legally. The Chona Commission itself made mild recommendations a lot which Cabinet rejected in favour of what President Kenneth Kaunda had already straitjacketed as an effective means of staying in power without opposition. The rest was simply window dressing.
Legalese as a way of constructing effective dictatorship and hegemony, instead of using blazing guns is a phenomenon too well known in history. Colonialism in most parts of the world did not coming through suffocating gun fire. In North Western Rhodesia, Lewanika was simply asked to sign a document using his thumb to give away what eventually became known as Northern Rhodesia, currently known as Zambia. What he signed was called a treaty though it violated all English norms of what constitutes a treaty or even a simple contract. I have examined that treaty so-called, King Lewanika’s signature or thumb print is not there. King Lewanika did not know the language in which that contract was written or the intricacies of what makes a treaty or contract binding. He had no knowledge of the several criteria for what makes a treaty or contract a binding document. Zambia was colonised through fraud.
Law can be fraudulent.
This is exactly what the Lungu government is trying to perpetrate on the people of Zambia through this fraudulent so-called Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 10 of 2019. It has violated all the known constitutional amendment norms. They have reversed all the norms of how constitutional amendments come into being. They hand picked a few individuals and organisations in Lusaka, not Zambia, but Lusaka, to debate and come up with a document that had already been secretly finessed and the only purpose was to tinker with it here and there and then lend imprimatur to it. The final recommendations before it became a bill before being presented to the people of Zambia to debate, a process that should have started with the people debating this process first. Whatever document has come up, is not translated in any of the Zambian languages.
Now a process is underway presenting this document fait accompli (already done). Some MP has even gotten his constituency to rubber stamp this document post facto. There have been no guns blazing. They want to justify this process through legalese.
The process of constructing a constitutional dictatorship, which this is, through this legal maneuver has been examined by Clinton Rossiter in his 1948 book, “Constitutional Dictatorship”. The book analysed the Hitlerite method of coming to power through legalese with which I started this article. Lungu is doing the same now, taking more or less the same route as President Kaunda did, with variations here and there. The PF government is the closest to the UNIP government way of doing things, sans corruption and vision, which corruption has hit the roof in this era. There was little corruption under UNIP but there was a lot of vision, which is totally lacking now.
There is another legal way of bringing in a Constitutional Dictatorship initially without guns blazing and that is through what Italian political scientist Antonio Gramsci called “Hegemony” in governance. A hegemonic regime comes to power legally but then transforms itself into a dictatorship through a combination of the use of mass consent sprinkled with heavy doses of coercion at times to intimate the populace into submitting to the dictates of the ruling party. Mussolini did this in Italy. All such methods end up in full blown coercive dictatorship. It happened in Germany under Hitler, In Italy under Mussolini, in Zambia under Kaunda, in Apartheid South Africa under Verwoerd , Vorster and Botha.
Constitutional Dictatorship and hegemony are underwritten by the regimes’ organic intellectuals or pseudo-intellectuals and coercion is enforced by cadres and lumpenproletariates. Hitler had his own goebbels and brown shirts. So did Mussolini, Apartheid, UNIP, the PF and all other regimes have had their equivalents.
The aim of Constitutional Dictatorship and Hegemony are the same the world over: stay in power of incumbent regime and do away with any opposition and to disband the rule of law and to permanently rig the elections in favour of the ruling regime. These regimes must be resisted by alternative means by any means necessary.
The attempt by the PF in Zambia to enlarge the powers of the executive and eviscerate the rule of law through this Constitutional amendment process, a fraudulent legal manoeuvre must be resisted because the end result is known. We know what Hitler, Mussolini, Apartheid and Kaunda led their nations into. We have intellectual tools through Clinton Rossiter and Antonio Gramsci to analyse this phenomenon. Indeed we have the experience and we don’t need books to guide us. We defeated colonialism at long last. We defeated KK at long last. We can defeat this construction of Constitutional Dictatorship and Hegemony by the PF government by any means necessary.
Dr Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches law in Zambia.