Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1998 - Zambia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 26 February 1999
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1998 - Zambia, 26 February 1999, available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Zambia is a republic governed by a president and a unicameral national assembly. After two decades of one-party rule, free and fair multiparty elections in November 1991 resulted in the victory of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) and the election of President Frederick J.T. Chiluba, a former trade unionist. In November 1996 elections, President Chiluba was reelected, and his party won 131 of 150 seats in the National Assembly. Constitutional amendments enacted in May 1996 disqualified former president Kenneth Kaunda, the main opposition leader, from seeking the presidency. The MMD's use of government resources, including the state-owned media, put the fairness of the elections into question, although, despite some voting irregularities, there was no evidence of substantial or widespread vote rigging or vote counting fraud.

Several days after a short lived coup attempt on October 28, 1997, the President proposed and Parliament approved legislation establishing a 90-day state of emergency, which was scheduled to end in January but was extended into March. The state of emergency allowed the Government to detain suspects for 28 days without charge under a police detention order and for the remainder of the state of emergency under a presidential detention order. By early in the year, the Government had detained a total of 7 civilians and about 90 military personnel, including former President Kaunda, in connection with the attempted coup. When the state of emergency was lifted in March, charges had been filed against those detained as suspected coup plotters. President Kaunda was released after 6 months of detention, when the Government decided not to prosecute his case. By year's end, all civilians detained in connection with the attempted coup had been released.

The Constitution mandates an independent judiciary and the Government generally respected this provision in practice; however, the judicial system is hampered by lack of resources and inefficiency.

The police, divided into regular and paramilitary units operating under the Ministry of Home Affairs, have primary responsibility for maintaining law and order. There were no indications that police action was as highly politicized as in the previous year. The Zambia Intelligence Security Service, under the Office of the President, is responsible for intelligence and internal security. Police continued to commit numerous, and at times serious, human rights abuses.

The Government continued its free market economic reform program. Difficulties in privatizing major portions of the parastatal copper mines contributed to negative economic developments, including stagnation, increasing inflation, and suspension of balance of payments support by foreign donors. Erratic rainfall, floods, and delayed delivery of fertilizer contributed to a below average 1997-98 maize crop, the staple food of most citizens. Approximately 70 percent of all citizens live in extreme poverty.

The Government took steps to address some human rights problems, but serious abuses continued in several areas. The police committed extrajudicial killings, and beat and otherwise abused criminal suspects and detainees. Prison conditions are harsh and life-threatening. Arbitrary arrests, prolonged detention, and long delays in trials remain problems. Police infringed on citizens' privacy rights. The Government established a commission of inquiry to investigate the torture of some of the coup detainees and promised further steps to improve police training and accountability. However, a lack of professionalism and discipline in the police force remains a serious problem. Unlike the previous year, the Government no longer persisted in attempts to limit freedom of the press; however, it continued to control two of the country's three daily newspapers, contrary to its 1991 campaign promises to privatize government-owned mass media. The Government restricted citizens' right of peaceful assembly and association, and in a few instances limited freedom of movement. Citizen's right to change their government was restricted in the 1996 national elections, the last time national elections were held.

In May 1997, the Government established the autonomous Zambian Human Rights Commission (ZHRC). Despite initial doubts about its effectiveness, the Commission obtained access to the coup detainees and investigated and confirmed allegations that seven of them had been tortured. The Government has promised to investigate these charges after the conclusion of the trial of the coup detainees. The Commission also took effective steps to press the Government to release a number of prisoners. However, human rights and civic organizations continued to complain of government harassment. Women continued to experience discrimination in both law and fact. Violence against women and denial of widows' inheritance rights remained widespread. Discrimination against people with disabilities is a problem. Child labor exists in rural subsistence occupations and in some urban occupations.


Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of political killings during the year, but police continued to use excessive force that at times resulted in extrajudicial killings. Press accounts reported that police killed 19 persons during the year. For example, in February the police shot and killed Theo Mijoni, and Felix and Sydney Chtama in Lusaka's Kabulonga residential area where they were found pushing their broken-down vehicle. The police officers responsible were arrested and charged with murder; a trial was still under way at year's end.

In May seven police officers of Mindolo police station in Kitwe were arrested in connection with the death in custody of Steward Mwantende, who they picked up in connection with suspected housebreaking. During interrogation police reportedly beat and burned Mwantende by lighting a fire under his legs. Mwantende died from his injuries. The police officers were arrested and a trial was still underway at year's end. Also in May, police shot and killed five persons at Agritech Zambia Limited who they suspected of robbery. In fact, four of the five persons killed were drivers and their assistants who were hired to transport tires. No disciplinary action against the police officers responsible was reported.

In August a 12-year-old girl, Rachel Mbewe, was shot and killed by a police officer at her home in Lusaka's Bauleni township. The officer reportedly was drunk and believed that suspected criminals had entered the house; he shot Mbewe when she denied that anyone had entered. No disciplinary action against the police officer responsible was reported.

In November police killed eight persons in the aftermath of the murder of former Finance Minister Ronald Penza. Police claimed to have killed Penza's attackers, although it was unclear whether Penza's attackers were among those killed by the police. Two additional suspects were apprehended and awaited trial at year's end. No action has been taken against the police officers responsible for the killings.

In November a secondary school student died from a cerebral hemorrhage while in police custody. She had been arrested for allegedly stealing examination papers.

In 1995 army recruits near Kampala Mposhi went on a rampage in retaliation for the death of a comrade at the hands of local villagers. The rampaging army recruits destroyed an estimated 100 village houses and killed 2 villagers. After 3 years, no disciplinary action has been reported.

A large number of prison inmates died due to illness and harsh conditions (see Section 1.c.).

b. Disappearance

There were no confirmed reports of politically motivated disappearances caused by government officials. However, after a police officer threatened a lawyer for the treason detainees (see Section 1.d.) with abductions, her son disappeared under suspicious circumstances and later was found some 190 miles away. (see Section 1.e.).

Former Rwandan Legal Affairs Minister Agnes Ntangibyalino Rutugwera who disappeared from the country in 1997, was found in a Rwandan prison. The Government investigated the incident, but was able only to determine that the abductors were not government officials using government vehicles as alleged.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Although the Constitution prohibits torture, police regularly used excessive force when apprehending, interrogating and detaining criminal suspects or illegal aliens. In most such instances, detaining officers beat suspects and generally were not disciplined or arrested for such acts. In May police in the Woodlands station beat a foreign embassy guard and the housekeeper of a foreign diplomat after picking them up for questioning in connection with a suspected burglary. Neither individual was arrested. The officer responsible for the beatings was suspended for 1 month, demoted, and barred from promotion for 7 years.

In May Steward Mwantende died from injuries the police inflicted upon him during interrogation (see Section 1.a.).

The ZHRC confirmed that police tortured seven of the persons detained after the October 1997 coup attempt. There were reports that state agents tortured two of the seven in order to make them falsely implicate former President Kaunda and other politicians in the coup attempt. There were no reports of any government investigation into the torture of the coup detainees. In March the ZHRC urged the Government to hold an inquiry into these incidents of torture. Foreign governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGO's), and other human rights organizations also pressed the Government to investigate these incidents of torture and to bring charges against those responsible. Early in the year, one of the alleged torturers was promoted.

In May the Government agreed to initiate an independent inquiry into torture claims by the treason detainees, and, in August established a commission of inquiry comprised of treason trial judge Japhet Banda and Lusaka principal resident magistrate Getrude Chawatama. Due to Judge Banda's treason trial obligations, the torture inquiry cannot begin until the treason trial has concluded. The Government further promised to institute measures to monitor continuously and reform police operations to ensure that civil liberties are protected. It further directed the police, prisons, and immigration departments to intensify human rights training among their officers. The Government indicated that it would amend the Police Act to provide for the establishment of a police complaints authority to which members of the public could channel complaints pertaining to police harassment and abuse.

In September Minister of Home Affairs Peter Machungwa reported to Parliament that a police investigation had determined that the police did not use live ammunition during the August 1997 incident in which police fired on an opposition party vehicle, slightly wounding former President Kaunda and seriously wounding opposition leader Dr. Roger Chongwe. In June the ZHRC indicated that, due to a lack of funding, it was unable to continue with its own investigations into the shooting.

Police corruption also is a problem. Citizens in private debt disputes are often detained by police in exchange for a portion of the payment owed (see Section 1.d.). Police sometimes committed extortion at roadblocks (see Section 2.d.).

The police undertake investigations of instances of police use of excessive force and have disciplined officers who committed human rights abuses. Middle ranking and senior officers are enrolled in human rights training seminars at the police academy. A number of police officers are the subject of internal investigations and prosecutions. Authorities arrested some police officers on such criminal charges as murder, robbery, and possession of illegal narcotics.

In August the Legal Affairs Minister announced that the Government had acceded to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment with one reservation. However, by year's end, the Government had not ratified the Convention and still had not disciplined or prosecuted any of the individuals allegedly involved in the torture of persons detained in connection with the 1997-98 state of emergency.

Prison conditions are harsh and life-threatening. According to official statistics, prisons designed to hold 6,000 prisoners held over 12,000. This severe overcrowding, combined with poor sanitation, inadequate medical facilities, meager food supplies, and lack of potable water resulted in serious outbreaks of dysentery and other diseases, including tuberculosis. In a report submitted to Parliament in 1996, the Commissioner of Prisons said that 975 prisoners had died in prison between January 1991 and December 1995 due to illness and harsh conditions. The death rate of prison inmates remained about the same during the year.

During a visit to Mpima prison in Kabwe in May, the ZHRC learned that the prison has had no water supply for the last 3 years. Also in May, a Ndola magistrate, Dorothy Kaira, was informed by remandees that poor conditions at the Ndola remand prison forced them to plead guilty to offenses to enable them to quickly serve their terms and be released.

The Government generally permits prison visits by both domestic and international monitors and by resident diplomats.

In December 1997, the authorities did not allow Africa Watch to visit the detained treason suspects. The Government did permit Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to visit President Kaunda and Princess Nakatindi Wina, but they were not permitted to visit most of the coup detainees during the year. The authorities delayed for some time before permitting the ZHRC to visit the coup detainees.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Arbitrary arrest and detention are still problems. Criminal suspects often are arrested on the basis of flimsy evidence or an uncorroborated accusation. In criminal cases, the law requires that a detainee be charged and brought before a magistrate within 24 hours. Attorneys and family members are allowed access to pretrial detainees. In practice the authorities hold most detainees for more than 1 month from commission of an offense to first appearance before a magistrate. In many cases, an additional period of 6 months elapses before a magistrate commits the defendant to the High Court for trial. Following committal, preparation of the magistrate court record for transmittal to the High Court takes months, or in some cases as long as a year. Once a case reaches the High Court for trial, court proceedings last an average of 6 months.

Pretrial detention often is prolonged. Approximately 2,000 out of 12,000 prisoners are awaiting trial on criminal charges. In some cases defendants have been awaiting trial for as long as 4 years. There was some progress in holding trials; in past years, some defendants had waited for as long as 10 years for their trials. These long delays are a result of inadequate resources, inefficiency, lack of trained personnel, and broad rules of procedure that give wide latitude to prosecutors and defense attorneys to request adjournments. The High Court Commissioner can release detainees if police fail to bring the case to trial, although that did not occur in any case during the year.

Although there is a functioning bail system, overcrowded prisons reflect in part the large number of detainees charged with serious offenses for which bail is not granted. These include treason, murder, aggravated robbery, and violations of the narcotics laws. Constitutional bail was granted in three cases in December. One was a criminal case and the other two involved the remaining civilian coup detainees, Dean Mung'omba and Princess Wina. The judges in these cases granted bail because the accused had been detained for excessive periods without evidence being presented against them. Indigent detainees and dependents rarely have the means to post bail. The Government legal aid office is responsible for providing legal aid representation for indigent detainees and defendants in criminal or civil cases. In practice few receive assistance. The office had 14 attorneys to cover the entire country and a budget of $110,000 during the year.

Police stations frequently become "debt collection centers," where police officers acting upon unofficial complaints, detain debtors, without charge, indefinitely until they pay the complainants. In return the police receive a percentage of the payments (see Section l.c.).

The authorities held in detention pending deportation approximately 600 illegal immigrants, principally from neighboring countries. Because the immigration authorities lack funds for deportation, illegal immigrants are sometimes kept in prison for extended periods.

The state of emergency imposed in October 1997 allowed the Government to detain suspects for 28 days without charge using a police detention order and for the remainder of the state of emergency under a presidential detention order. By the time the state of emergency had been lifted in March, charges had been filed against the coup suspects, and their cases went into normal legal proceedings that were still ongoing at year's end. A total of 7 civilians and about 90 military personnel were detained. By year's end all civilians detained in connection with the attempted coup and several of the military personnel had been released. The treason trials of the detainees who were not released began 7 months after their arrests.

On Christmas Day 1997, the Government detained former President Kaunda for suspected involvement in the October attempted military coup. (President Kaunda had left the country shortly before the coup and had returned on December 21.) He was moved from prison to house arrest on December 31. The Government filed formal charges against him in January, but released him on June 1, when the treason trial for other detainees began. The Government has not furnished evidence for President Kaunda's detention. His release, under an agreement not to prosecute, stipulated that he cannot challenge the MMD Government over his detention or seek redress in court.

Among the treason trial defendants (see Section 1.e.) were Zambia Democratic Congress President, Dean Mung'omba, and Movement for Multi-Party Democracy Chairperson for Women Affairs, Princess Wina. In both cases, evidence linking them to the attempted coup was not submitted until December, and once submitted was declared inadmissible by the judge for failure to comply with legal norms. Both were released on December 21 when the Government decided not to prosecute, although the case can be resumed if the Government so chooses. The legal and human rights communities criticized the Government for using a mechanism that allows charges to be reinstated at the Government's discretion.

In 1996 the Speaker of the National Assembly ordered the indefinite incarceration of the Post newspaper reporters Fred Mmembe, Bright Mwape, and Lucy Sichone for contempt of the House. The High Court later quashed the sentences, ruling that the Speaker had no authority over private citizens. The Government appealed the case, seeking to reinstate the detentions of the three reporters. The case still was pending at year's end.

The Government does not use exile for political purposes. However, it has used deportation and the threat of deportation for political purposes against persons whose claims to citizenship it had refused to recognize.

During the year, a number of citizens went into self-imposed political exile in foreign countries including: Liberal Progressive Front President, Dr. Roger Chongwe, in Australia; Zambia Democratic Congress General Secretary, Azwell Banda, in South Africa; former editor of the defunct newspaper Confidential, Reverend Steward Mwila, in South Africa; and former President Kaunda's daughter, Catherine Mwanza, in South Africa.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Government generally respected the independence of the judiciary during the year. Several court decisions during the year, particularly those related to the treason trial, reaffirmed the independence and growing strength of the judiciary. For example, in October the High Court ruled against the Government and determined that the treason detainees (see Section 1.d.) could not be forced to return to prison if a doctor maintained that their health warranted hospital care. In December the High Court granted constitutional bail to Dean Mung'omba and Nakatindi Wina on the grounds that the Government had detained them for too long without evidence. However, there have been reported instances in past years in which Parliament overturned Court rulings. The President nominates and the National Assembly confirms the Chief Justice and other members of the Supreme Court. The Judicial System is hampered by lack of resources and inefficiency.

The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction for all legal and constitutional disputes. The High Court, which holds regular sessions in all nine provincial capitals, has authority to hear criminal and civil cases and appeals from lower courts. Magistrate courts have original jurisdiction in some criminal and civil cases, while local, or customary, courts handle most civil and petty criminal cases in rural areas.

Local courts employ the principles of customary law, which vary widely throughout the country. Lawyers are barred from participating, and there are few formal rules of procedure. Presiding judges, who are usually prominent local citizens, have great power to invoke customary law, rendering judgments regarding marriages, divorces, inheritances, other civil proceedings, and minor criminal matters. Judgments often are not in accordance with the Penal Code. For example, they tend to discriminate against women in matters of inheritance (see Section 5).

Trials in magistrate courts are public, and defendants have the opportunity to confront their accusers and present witnesses. Many defendants, however, are too poor to retain a lawyer, and the poor state of the Government's legal aid department means that many citizens entitled to legal aid find that it is unavailable. Congestion in the courts and long delays while the accused are in custody can be tantamount to denial of fair trials.

In July Nellie Mutti, an attorney for the treason detainees (see Section 1.d.) was threatened with abduction by a police officer if she continued to represent one of those accused. Mutti brought a complaint before the Lusaka High Court judge, who investigated the threat. Later, Mutti's son disappeared from their home under suspicious circumstances and later was found alive in Ndola, some 190 miles away (see Section 1.b.).

There were no reports of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence.

The Constitution provides for respect for privacy and the inviolability of the home; however, the authorities did not always respect these rights in practice. The law requires a warrant before police may enter a home, unless a state of emergency is in place. Police routinely ignored this requirement and often arrested alleged criminals at their homes without first having obtained an arrest warrant. The Constitution grants the Drug Enforcement Commission and the Zambian Intelligence Security Service authority to wiretap telephones for possible cause.

In 1996 the Inspector General of Police admitted in open court that he had ordered the illegal wiretaps of the telephone at the offices of the Post, an independent daily newspaper. The case is still pending in court.

Roundups of suspected illegal aliens in the home or workplace continued. According to the Government Commissioner for Refugees, immigration officials are empowered under the law to conduct these roundups without a warrant.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

While the Constitution provides for freedom of expression and of the press, the Penal Code lists various prohibited activities that may be interpreted broadly to restrict these freedoms; unlike the previous year, the Government no longer persisted in attempts to limit freedom of the press. In response to headlines and stories of alleged corrupt practices on the part of government officials, the Government, accused officials, and other individuals have brought numerous libel actions against the Post newspaper. At year's end, over 80 cases filed over the course of the last 3 years remained to be adjudicated.

The law includes provisions for investigative tribunals to call as witnesses journalists and media managers who print allegations of parliamentary misconduct. Failure to cooperate with a tribunal may result in charges of contempt punishable by up to 6 months in jail. This is seen by the media as a clear infringement on press freedom and a means for parliamentarians to bypass the clogged court system in dealing with libel suits against the media.

A government appeal of a National Assembly case initiated against three journalists in 1996 remains pending (see Section l.d.).

On October 21, a judge dismissed a charge of contempt of court against the local newspaper the Post. The charge was brought by Attorney General Bonaventure Mutale after publication of an editorial in the Post noting that Princess Wina and Dean Mung'omba remain in prison, although the State has not presented evidence of their involvement in the attempted coup of October 28, 1997.

In February 1997, the Government published the draft of a media bill that would have limited press freedom severely. After considerable criticism and protest the Government withdrew the bill. Partly in an effort to forestall any future government attempts to regulate the media, the Zambia Independent Media Association (ZIMA) formed its own media council to establish ethical standards and handle complaints.

A number of privately-owned newspapers question government actions and policies, and circulate without government interference. For the last 2 years, the leading private daily, the Post, has had an Internet home page that has attracted over 15,000 readers per month. The government-controlled Times of Zambia and Zambia Daily Mail also have home pages, established in April 1996. The Government owns two of the most widely circulated newspapers, as well as the sole television station, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC). In addition to the government-controlled radio station, there are two church-related stations and one private commercial station.

The Government exercised considerable influence over the government-owned media, which continued to follow the government line on important issues. In December 1997, the Government pressured a commercial station to refrain from rebroadcasting Voice of America (VOA) and British Broadcasting Corporation(BBC) items on the grounds that its commercial license did not include such a provision. Multichoice, based in South Africa, provides satellite and analog wireless subscribers with television services. These services provide broadcasts of Cable News Network (CNN), BBC World, and Sky Television News. They also provide three BBC, one Radio France International, and VOA radio news broadcasts. Neither of the services provides local news coverage. A second wireless service, CASAT, began operations in December 1997. In August Trinity Broadcasting Network, a foreign-based church-related television network, began 24-hour transmission from a rented studio at the ZNBC complex.

Contrary to its 1991 campaign promises to privatize

government-owned mass media, the Government has declined to privatize the state-owned and government-controlled Times of Zambia, the Zambia Daily Mail, and the ZNBC radio and television stations. Deputy Information Minister, Fidelis Mando, reiterated the Government's position in April, when he stated that the Government would continue to own the mass media.

In January police injured a CNN reporter when trying to seize her camera while she was attempting to speak to former President Kaunda during his habeas corpus application case before the Lusaka High Court. President Kaunda was challenging his detention by the MMD Government. The police also prevented some local and foreign reporters and camera crews from covering a part of the Kaunda trial or filming events outside of the courthouse.

In July the Lusaka High Court nullified the 3-month suspension by the Speaker of the National Assembly of the National Party Solwezi Central Member of Parliament, Dr. Ludwig Sondashi, describing it as "a violation of his rights." Sondashi was alleged to have remarked that "sometimes coups can be positive," in reference to the failed October 28, 1997, attempted military coup.

Academic freedom is respected. University professors are permitted to lecture freely, conduct research, and publish their work.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, but the Government restricted this right in practice. The law requires rally organizers to notify the police 7 days in advance of a rally. The police may advise the organizers that the time or venue is inopportune. In practice the police did not interfere with most peaceful rallies whose leaders followed the prior notification rule; however, authorities sometimes denied permission to proceed for rallies planned by the political opposition, particularly the United National Independence Party (UNIP). An assembly permit also was denied to the Nongovernmental Organization Coordinating Committee for a rally to support the U.N. Day for Women's Rights.

The Government banned political meetings and rallies during the state of emergency at the beginning of the year, but such activities resumed after the lifting of the state of emergency.

The Constitution provides for freedom of association, however, on occasions the Government has harassed and arrested NGO leaders. In 1996 authorities arrested NGO leaders, Alfred Zulu and Ngande Mwanajiti, and charged them with receiving financing from foreign governments. While the charges have not been dropped, they are not being pursued, and both men remain active and free.

All organizations must apply formally for registration to the registrar of societies. In most cases, authorities routinely approved these applications. There are currently 38 political parties and dozens of NGO's registered.

c. Freedom of Religion

A 1996 amendment to the Constitution declared the country a Christian nation while providing for freedom of religion. In practice, the Government generally respects the right of all faiths to worship freely.

Some members of the Muslim community have complained that their religion has been discriminated against since the country was declared a Christian nation. They contend that they are unable freely to teach and practice Islam. However, other Muslim organizations state that they have not experienced any restrictions on their actions. There are mosques in the country, and the Government does not appear to hinder Muslim worship or teaching.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides citizens the right to move freely throughout the country, to reside in any part of the country, and to depart and return to the country without restriction. The authorities generally respected these rights during the year, but police roadblocks to control criminal activity continued, and police sometimes extorted money and goods from motorists. In December 1997, several days after UNIP President Kaunda's detention, the passports of his son, Major Wezi Kaunda, Wezi's wife, and a UNIP central committee member, Stanley Muntanga, were confiscated when they tried to cross the border into Zimbabwe. The passports were returned early in the year.

In May the passport of the former editor of the defunct newspaper Confidential, Reverend Stewart Mwila, was confiscated when he was about to board a bus to South Africa. Mwila had published a story about a plot to discredit Chief Justice Matthew Ngulube during the period prior to the 1996 national elections. Also in May, the passport of Dr. Rajan Mathani was confiscated at Ndola airport, where he had already boarded an aircraft bound for South Africa. Mathani was subsequently detained in connection with the failed coup and later released.

While there is no law specifically addressing refugee processing issues, the Government complies with the provisions of the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that there were approximately 120,000 refugees, mainly Angolans, in the country. The Government cooperated with the UNHCR in processing applications for refugee status. The Government provided first asylum to 3,552 refugees during the year.

There was a small influx of persons from the Democratic Republic of Congo following increased fighting in that country in August. In response to the alleged criminal activities of many Congolese nationals in the border area, the Government rounded up, arrested, and deported many Congolese and other illegal aliens throughout the year. The deportation of illegal aliens is lawful; however, those who had been accorded refugee status by the UNHCR were sometimes picked up and held for various lengths of time before being released.

There were no cases in which the Government deported refugees who were registered with the UNHCR, and there were no reports of the forcible return of persons to a country where they feared persecution.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens voted in multiparty elections in November 1996; however, constitutional amendments barred the best known opposition candidate, former president and UNIP leader, Kenneth Kaunda, and his deputy, senior chief Inyambo Yeta, from running for the presidency in 1996, thereby restricting the right of citizens to change their government. The amendments enacted in 1996 require both parents of presidential candidates to be citizens by birth and disqualify tribal chiefs from running for the presidency.

UNIP boycotted the elections and destroyed many party members' voter registration cards. Eleven political parties contested the presidential and National Assembly elections in 1996. The Government deregistered 14 opposition splinter parties for noncompliance with registration procedures. Approximately 50 percent of eligible voters registered. Of this total, almost 70 percent cast ballots. Although the MMD's use of government resources, including the state-owned media, during campaigns probably did not affect the final outcome, the elections' fairness was nevertheless put into question. The Government's failure to implement a transparent registration process raised doubts about the Government's willingness to have an open electoral process.

Local government elections, originally scheduled for 1995, were held on December 30. While the Government acted within the limits of the law, it gave only 1 month's notice of the election date, which prompted opposition parties to complain that they had insufficient time to prepare campaigns. The short notice also meant that the Electoral Commission was ill prepared to conduct a large-scale operation. As a result, there were several reports of administrative problems at polling stations, including voting registrars being sent to the wrong polling stations, party symbols being mixed up on ballots, and polling stations being under-supplied with ballots. Voter turner was extremely low. However, despite serious irregularities, the elections generally reflected the will of the electorate.

Under the Constitution, the President wields broad authority. The National Assembly ratifies major appointments and theoretically has broad powers, but the overwhelming majority held by the MMD effectively mitigates against independent action by the legislature and limits its ability to provide a check on executive authority.

The number of women in politics and government is increasing, but remains small. There are 15 female Members of Parliament; 2 of these are ministers, and 3 are deputy ministers. There also are three ethnic Asians in Parliament (one is a minister), and one mixed race (African-European) minister.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Human rights and civic rights organizations generally operated without serious government hindrance; however, police arrested the leaders of the Zambian Independent Monitoring Team (ZIMT) and the Committee for a Clean Campaign (CCC) in November 1996 after the two organizations described the 1996 electoral process as neither free nor fair. Although these detentions were brief, the ZIMT, the CCC, the African Human Rights Network (AFRONET), and the Foundation for Electoral Processes have claimed that official harassment, including blocking their bank accounts, has continued.

The Government continued to be receptive to criticism from human rights and civic organizations in general, but on occasion, government officials accused human rights monitors of abetting crime and thwarting the work of the police through their focus on victims of police brutality. The Government generally did not interfere with inquiries or visits by international human rights organizations. However, in December 1997, the authorities refused to give permission for a human rights representative from Africa Watch to visit detainees in prison, and Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International were not permitted to visit most of the coup detainees during the year.

Other human rights organizations, including the Law Association of Zambia, Women for Change, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, and the Zambia Civic Education Association have continued to press for a transparent democratic electoral system.

In May the Government accused local human rights groups and NGO's of advocating poverty for the country by lobbying the international community to continue withholding balance of payments support to the country because of its allegedly poor human rights record.

In May 1997, the Government established an autonomous Human Rights Commission. A Supreme Court justice chairs the Commission; other members are drawn from throughout society and include the former head of the Foundation for Democratic Processes and a University of Zambia lecturer on human rights. The Commission interceded on behalf of persons who it concluded had their rights denied by the Government. In order to monitor actively human rights abuses at the local level, the Commission established human rights committees in all provincial capitals. While there were doubts at first about its autonomy and effectiveness, the Commission aggressively sought and received access to the coup detainees, exposed the torture of seven of them, and demanded and obtained better medical care for them. The Commission spoke out on behalf of other detainees and prisoners, and the Government responded by releasing seriously ill prisoners at the Commission's request. The Government has responded further to the Commission's recommendation by establishing an inquiry to investigate torture claims by detainees. The inquiry is chaired by a High Court justice, and a principal resident magistrate is a member.

The Government continued to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in detaining and sending to Arusha those persons whom the ICTR identified as suspected war criminals.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, tribe, sex, place of origin, marital status, political opinion, color, or creed. Constitutional amendments barring native born Zambians of partial or full foreign ancestry from the presidency appear to violate the prohibition on discrimination based on place of origin. These amendments also prohibit traditional chiefs, who are accorded authority and privileges as chiefs, from running for political office unless they resign their chieftainships. A legal challenge to these amendments in 1996 was unsuccessful.


Violence against women remained a serious problem. Wife beating and rape were widespread. According to official statistics, over 4,700 rape cases were reported to the police between 1991 and 1998. Of these, approximately 30 percent resulted in conviction and 5 percent in acquittal. The remainders either were dismissed or remain unresolved. Defendants convicted of rape normally were sentenced to hard labor. Since many rape cases were not reported to police, the actual number is considered much higher. Domestic assault is a criminal offense. Although the police established a Victim Support Unit (VSU) to attend to issues of domestic assault in 1997, in practice police often are reluctant to pursue reports of wife beating, preferring instead to broker a reconciliation. The Government and NGO's expressed continued concern about violence against women, and the media devoted considerable publicity to it during the year. The VSU handles problems of wife beating, mistreatment of widows by the deceased husband's relatives, and "property grabbing."

Both the Constitution and the law entitle women to equality with men in most areas. In practice, women are disadvantaged severely in formal employment and education compared with men. Married women who are employed often suffer from discriminatory conditions of service. Women have little independent access to credit facilities; in most cases, they remain dependent on their husbands, who are required to co-sign for loans. As a result, few women own their own homes. However, some small financial institutions reportedly are now allowing women to sign independently for loans.

Customary law and practice also place women in a subordinate status with respect to property, inheritance, and marriage, despite various constitutional and legislative provisions. Polygyny is permitted if the first wife agrees to it at the time of her wedding. Under the traditional customs prevalent in most ethnic groups, all rights to inherit property rest with the deceased man's family. The 1989 Intestate Succession Act was designed to provide women with a share of the joint estate. Under the act, the children of the deceased man equally share 50 percent; the widow receives 20 percent; the parents receive 20 percent; and other relatives receive 10 percent. A 1996 "reform" of the act places the widow's share at 20 percent, to be divided equally with any other women who can prove a marital relationship with the deceased man, thus granting inheritance rights to other wives, mistresses, and concubines.

In practice, "property grabbing" by the relatives of the deceased man continues to be rampant, particularly when local customary courts have jurisdiction. These courts often use a different law, the Local Courts Act, to distribute inheritances without reference to the percentages mandated by the Intestate Succession Act. As a result, many widows receive little or nothing from the estate. The fines that the Intestate Succession Act mandates for property grabbing are extraordinarily low.


The Government seeks to improve the welfare of children, but scarce resources and ineffective implementation of social programs continue to affect adversely the welfare of children. Education is neither compulsory nor free. Due to poverty, both rural and urban children often work in the informal sector to help families make ends meet (see Section 6.d). The number of street children in Lusaka has jumped from 35,000 in 1991 to 90,000 during the year, partially because of the number of parents who have died from AIDS. Approximately 75 percent of all households are caring for at least one orphan and, as a result, these children face greater risks of child abuse, sexual abuse, and child labor.

People With Disabilities

Persons with disabilities face significant societal discrimination in employment and education. The Government has taken steps to ameliorate their hardships, including establishing a national trust fund to provide loans to the disabled to help them start businesses, but its efforts are limited by scarce resources. The Government has not legislated or otherwise mandated accessibility to public buildings and services for the disabled.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for the right of citizens to form trade unions, and approximately 60 percent of the 300,000 formal sector workers are unionized. Seventeen of the country's 19 large national unions, organized by industry or profession, are affiliated with the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). The ZCTU is operated democratically and, like its constituent unions, is independent of any political party and the Government. The Mine Workers Union of Zambia and four other unions broke away from the ZCTU and established a rival umbrella organization in 1994. Three of them have since rejoined the ZCTU.

The 1993 Industrial and Labor Relations Act (ILRA) reestablished the "one union, one industry" principle. The Bankers Union of Zambia, though registered with the Government in 1993, has been unable to operate because the employers recognize the existing Zambia Union of Financial and Allied Workers. In 1993 the Ndola High Court ordered the Government to register the Secondary School Teachers Union of Zambia. The Government continues to argue that the Zambia National Teachers Union represents secondary school teachers and has delayed administratively recognition of the new secondary school teachers union.

All workers have the right to strike, except those engaged in essential services. In addition to the Zambia Defense Force, the Judiciary, the police, the prison service, and the Intelligence Security Service, the ILRA defines as essential services power, medical, water, sewerage, fire fighting, and certain mining occupations essential to safety. It permits strikes only after all other legal recourse has been exhausted. Thus, in practice, all work stoppages during the year were illegal. The ILRA prohibits employers from retribution against employees engaged in legal union activities. Workers engaged in illegal strikes do not enjoy this protection.

By a majority vote of its members, a union may decide on affiliation with the ZCTU or with trade unions or organizations outside the country. The ZCTU is a member of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. Labor leaders travel without restrictions to international conferences and to visit counterparts abroad.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Employers and unions in each industry negotiate collective bargaining agreements through joint councils in which there is no government involvement. Civil servants and teachers, as public officials, negotiate directly with the Government. Collective disputes are referred first to conciliation. If conciliation fails to resolve the dispute, the parties may refer the case to the Industrial Relations Court, or, in the case of employees, vote to strike. In practice, the industry joint councils function effectively as collective bargaining units.

The ILRA prohibits discrimination by employers against union members and organizers. An employee who believes that he has been penalized for union activities may, after exhausting any existing administrative channels for relief, file a complaint with the Industrial Relations Court. This court has the power to order appropriate redress for the aggrieved worker. The complainant may appeal a judgment of the Industrial Relations Court to the Supreme Court. In practice, the Court often orders employers to reinstate workers found to have been victims of discrimination.

There are no export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude but it authorizes the Government to call upon citizens to perform labor in specific instances, for example, during national emergencies or disasters. Moreover, the Government can require citizens to perform labor that is associated with traditional civil or communal obligations, as when all members of a village are called upon to assist in preparing for a visit by a traditional leader or other dignitary. In practice, bonded labor by adults or children is not permitted, and the labor authorities enforce the legal proscriptions when cases violating the law are brought to their attention (see Section 6.d.).

d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment

The legal minimum age for employment of children is 16 years. The Labor Commissioner effectively enforces this law in the industrial relations sector although, because of high adult unemployment, there is no demand for child labor. The law is not enforced for those who work in subsistence agriculture, domestic service, and informal sectors, where children under the age of 16 often are employed. In urban areas, children commonly engage in street vending. Forced or bonded labor by children is not permitted, and the authorities enforce legal proscriptions when cases of violations are brought to their attention (see Section 6.c.).

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage for nonunionized workers is set at $0.05 (70.30 kwacha) per hour. Based on a 48-hour workweek, the legal maximum for nonunionized workers, a worker earning the minimum wage would receive $35 (90,000 kwacha) per month. The minimum wage covers nonunionized workers in categories such as general workers, cleaners, office orderlies, and watchmen. The minimum wage is insufficient to provide a worker and family with a decent standard of living, and most minimum wage earners supplement their incomes through second jobs, subsistence farming, or reliance on the extended family.

With respect to unionized workers, wage scales and maximum workweek limits are established through collective bargaining. In practice, almost all unionized workers receive salaries considerably higher than the nonunionized minimum wage. The minimum workweek for full-time employment is 40 hours and is, in practice, the normal workweek. The law requires 2 days of annual leave per month of service.

The law also regulates minimum health standards in industry, and the Department of Mines is responsible for enforcement. Factory safety is handled by the Inspector of Factories under the Minister of Labor, but staffing problems chronically limit enforcement effectiveness. There are no legislative provisions to protect a worker who refuses to work on grounds of inadequate safety.

Search Refworld