Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1986

Zambia is a one-party state in which individual rights, basic
freedoms, and due process are generally respected while some
political rights are restricted. Much of the power is
concentrated in the hands of the President, Kenneth Kaunda, who
was reelected without opposition to his fifth consecutive
5-year term in 1983. He is advised by a central committee of
party leaders and governs through a Cabinet and a Parliament.
Candidates for political office at any level must be members of
the United National Independence Party (UNIP), but there is
strong competition for parliamentary seats within the
single-party structure. The President possesses sweeping
powers — conferred on him by emergency legislation which dates
from 1964 — to suspend observance of legal rights in the
"interest of state security." The Constitution also allows the
National Assembly to suspend basic constitutional guarantees.
The Zambian Intelligence and Security Service is tasked with
intelligence gathering and counterespionage responsibilities.
In 1986 laws creating a volunteer vigilante force under the
Ministry of Home Affairs were enacted. Urban crime and
smuggling are widespread and growing, severely taxing the
limited capabilities of Zambia's police and military forces.
Food riots in Lusaka, the capital, and several other cities in
mid-December further strained the security forces and saw the
first use of army troops in a civil disorder in 20 years.
Zambia's economy continues to be severely depressed due to
factors such as high debt servicing, low prices for the
country's mineral exports, low agricultural production, and
internal management problems. Also, the rapid rate of
population growth is outstripping increases in productivity.
There has been a continuing decline in the standard of living,
but the Government is taking steps to improve management of the
economy and to encourage the private sector.
Following a South African airstrike against Zambia on May 19,
there were widespread detentions of persons suspected of being
South African spies. A number of these people, primarily white
foreigners, were mistreated, sometimes severely. Several
governments formally protested mistreatment of their nationals
while under detention.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
a. Political Killing
There were no killings for which there was evidence of
political motivation or government instigation.
b. Disappearance
No cases of politically motivated disappearance were known to
have occurred.
c. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
The Constitution prohibits torture, but there are credible
allegations that police and military personnel have resorted to
torture when interrogating detainees. A number of foreign
nationals have alleged that they were detained and tortured in
order to extract confessions that they were foreign agents.
The courts frequently order investigations to ascertain if
confessions or statements were made after torture or physical
or mental mistreatment and have consistently rejected
statements obtained under duress. Abuses of prisoners are
reported to include beatings, sexual abuse, pain inflicted on
various parts of the body, long periods of solitary
confinement, and threats of execution or physical
mistreatment. Prisoners have successfully sued the State for
damages as a result of prison abuses.
Zambian prisons are severely overcrowded, understaffed, and
unsanitary. In the past 21 years, the prison population has
grown from 5,000 to 11,000 with no corresponding growth in
facilities. Medical facilities are meager, but prisoners with
serious medical problems are treated in public hospitals.
Prisoners are generally segregated by sex, seriousness of
offense, and age group. There is no institutional
differentiation in the treatment of different categories of
prisoners charged or convicted under civil or criminal statutes.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Under the state of emergency, in effect since independence in
1964, the President has broad discretion to detain or restrict
the movements of persons. Detention procedures have been
revised to conform with the provisions of the Constitution and
have increased the President's authority. The President can
order that a detainee be incarcerated indefinitely and is not
legally bound to accept a court's ruling of acquittal if he
still believes that the detainee is guilty. In practice,
however, detainees are almost always released if the court
finds in their favor. By law, presidential detainees are
entitled to formal notification of the reasons for their
detention within 14 days of arrest; publication of their
detention in the government Gazette; access to counsel;
frequent visitation by family and colleagues; immediate
representation to the detaining authority; and the right to
seek judicial review of the detention order by an independent
and impartial tribunal after 1 year. Presidential detainees
have their cases heard by the High Court and have the right to
appeal to the Supreme Court.
It is estimated that approximately 25 presidential detainees
are currently held in Zambia. During 1986 presidential
detention was used to arrest about 20 persons. Most of the
detainees are seeking their release through court actions, but
this can be a slow process which takes anywhere from a few
months to several years. Detainees can sue the State for
unlawful detention and false imprisonment.
The 22-year old state of emergency also gives law officers and
defense personnel extraordinary powers. Police officers of
assistant inspector rank and above may arrest without a warrant
and detain a person for up to 28 days if the officer has reason
to believe that a presidential detention order is justified.
Police must provide the detainee with the reasons for his
detention within 14 days of arrest. However, there are
credible reports that these rights are not always respected.
Security officers have broad powers to search suspects and
their homes and sometimes act without warrants when looking for
smugglers or illegal aliens.
Slavery, involuntary servitude, and forced labor are prohibited
by the Constitution. These prohibitions are observed in
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Zambian judicial system consists of a Supreme Court with
appellate powers and a series of lower courts, of which the
High Court is the most important. Presidential detainees are
not automatically guaranteed public trials, but the majority
have been tried in public. The safeguards of English common
law are provided in court cases not involving presidential
detainees. Independent observation confirms the independence
of the Zambian judiciary from executive branch influence. The
President's power to appoint and transfer judges has sometimes
been cited as proof that judicial independence can be
compromised. However, there is no evidence that such power has
swayed court decisions.
f . Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
The Government does not require membership in political
organizations and usually does not monitor correspondence or
telephones or otherwise interfere in family life. The sanctity
of the home is generally respected, except in isolated
incidents relating to the national emergency or to roundups of
illegal aliens. In such cases, security forces often enter the
homes of suspects without search warrants.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
There is considerable freedom of press and speech in Zambia,
and the press regularly reports criticism of government
activities expressed by sources ranging from elected officials
to average citizens. The two national dailies are owned by the
Government and the party respectively, but substantial
commentary critical of party and government performance is
permitted. The papers discuss economic policy, corruption, and
poor administration. However, negative comments concerning the
Head of State, the concept of the one-party state, or the
national philosophy, "Humanism", are prohibited. Journalists
and commentators know the limits of criticism and also avoid
reporting which could lead to charges of libel and slander.
An independent biweekly paper, which is sometimes critical of
official policies, is published by an association of churches,
and two other independent papers focus on mining and financial
subjects. Television and radio are owned and operated by the
Government, but frequent panel discussion programs provide for
a wide range of views on Zambian issues.
While the possibility of censorship of foreign publications and
news items exists, it is seldom invoked. Academic freedom is
highly respected in Zambian society, and educators are
outspoken in their commitment to an educational system free of
government influence. There is little or no governmental
influence in matters relating to curriculum, student selection,
or faculty assignment.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Police permits are required for meetings, rallies, or marches.
These permits are issued routinely, unless the Government
believes the proceedings are likely to be directed against
local authorities. While there is a ban on all political
activity outside the one-party structure, Zambia has a
profusion of trade associations and professional groups which
can serve as unofficial pressure groups on various economic,
political, and social subjects.
Zambia has a history of strong labor union organizations,
dating from the establishment of large copper mines during the
1930's. Zambia's 18 national labor unions, which are organized
by industry or profession, are all members of the Zambia
Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU). Member unions defend worker
interests, especially regarding wages and conditions of work,
and have the right to bargain collectively. Under existing
legislation, strikes are permitted only for specific reasons
and only after all other recourse has been exhausted.
Virtually all strikes are illegal, since they almost always
commence before the mandatory process of mediation has run its
course. However, the Government has normally relied on
persuasion and continued mediation to end strikes once they
have begun. A series of wildcat strikes during 1985, involving
workers in such important sectors as finance and mining,
resulted in a government decree declaring workers in most
sectors of the economy "essential" and therefore liable to
prosecution for illegal strike action. However, the Government
has yet to invoke this decree. The ZCTU is not controlled by
the party or Government, and union leaders frequently criticize
government policy on such subjects as wages, economic policy,
conditions of service, and labor representation in party and
government organs. The ZCTU is democratic and regularly
conducts open elections to select its leadership. It is active
in the International Labor Organization and is a member of the
Organization of African Trade Union Unity.
c. Freedom of Religion
Freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed and has been
publicly supported by President Kaunda . Zambia has no state
religion, and adherence to a particular faith does not confer
either advantage or disadvantage. Christian missionaries from
a wide variety of faiths operate in the country. While
Jehovah's Witnesses are prohibited from proselytizing, the sect
functions openly, and its freedom not to participate in various
secular activities such as voting, singing the national anthem,
and saluting the flag, has been upheld in the courts and
supported by senior party leaders. Lay associations and
religious youth groups operate independently of party control
or influence.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The President may, under the etnergency legislation, restrict
the movement of persons within Zambia, although this authority
is seldom if ever used. The Government also reserves the right
to refuse to issue or to withdraw passports to prevent foreign
travel by persons whose activities are considered inimical to
Zambian interests. Such restrictions are occasionally
applied. Strict currency regulations also serve to inhibit
foreign travel or emigration.
Acquisition, loss, or revocation of citizenship is governed by
constitutional provisions and laws administered by the
citizenship board. However, the President also has power to
grant or revoke citizenship on an extraordinary basis.
Zambia has long played host to a considerable refugee
population that originates in several strife-torn southern
African countries. The United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there are approximately 130,000
refugees in Zambia. The largest group of refugees is from
Angola, with significant numbers from Zaire, Namibia,
Mozambique, and South Africa. Smaller numbers are from Malawi
and Zimbabwe. Many of the Angolans and Zaireans have
spontaneously resettled in western and northwestern provinces
respectively since the ethnic compositions on both sides of the
border are similar. The Zambian Government operates two large
refugee resettlement centers, and the Southwest African
People's Organization operates one camp.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
Since 1973, the United National Independence Party, with an
estimated membership of less than 10 percent of the adult
population, has been Zambia's sole legal political party.
Power is concentrated in the hands of the President as leader
of the party and Head of State. He plays a dominant role in
determining the membership of Zambia's top executive
institutions, the party central committee, and the Cabinet,
although traditionally both bodies contain a general balance of
regional and tribal representation.
Candidates for political office at any level must be members of
the party and are subject to close examination for suitability
by senior party authorities. In practice, the political system
is open to individuals of somewhat divergent opinions provided
they are willing to work within the one-party structure and not
challenge the President's preeminent position. In the latest
parliamentary elections in 1983, 760 candidates contested 125
seats; 40 incumbents were defeated, including 7 ministers of
The National Assembly is reflective of constituent interests
and sometimes thwarts or modifies executive branch policies and
programs. It can also be critical of such policies, as was
demonstrated a number of times in 1986 when members of
Parliament railed against government expenditures, poor
services, and economic reforms. Presidential and general
elections are by universal suffrage, but the numbering of
ballots, which could be cross-checked against voter
registration numbers, could undermine the secrecy of the ballot.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
While there is no public record of the Zambian Government
having been subject to such investigations during 1986, the
Government neither encourages nor hinders inquiries or visits
by human rights organizations.
Section 5 Discrimination based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Language, or Social Status
Economic and social needs and cultural aspirations are met on a
generally nondiscriminatory basis in Zambia.
Under statutory law, women generally enjoy full equality with
men, and women participate increasingly in Zambia's social,
economic, and political life. They hold some senior positions
in the party, the Government, and the judiciary and are gaining
increasing representation in the professions and higher
education. In 1986 there were 3 women on the party's 25-member
central committee. Nevertheless, the majority of Zambian women
still occupy traditional roles. Customary law and practice
still compete on a de facto basis in most rural areas with
Zambia's Constitution and codified laws. Customary statutes
place women in subordinate or unequal status with respect to
property, inheritance, and marriage. The Law Development
Commission is seeking ways to remove such anomalies. In
Zambia's traditional society, women's primary role is bearing
and raising children. They also make a major contribution to
food production. Female students can be admitted to secondary
school with lower passing marks than male students as part of
Zambia's "affirmative action" program.
Zambian law regulates minimum health and safety standards and
worker rights in any industrial undertaking. Boards appointed
by the Government, which include worker and employer
representatives, fix minimum wages, overtime pay rates, and
conditions of employment. Women are excluded from night work
and a variety of hazardous occupations. Age restrictions apply
to the industrial sector, and there are only a few cases of
employees under age 16. However, persons under age 14 are
often employed in the commercial and agricultural sectors.