WORLD REPORT 2001 - Zambia

Human Rights Developments

The situation in Zambia improved over the year. The government of President Frederick Chiluba implemented a number of promised economic reforms and promised to quicken the pace of greater democratization. As in past years, abuses of freedom of assembly and association, freedom of expression, and the government's lack of action against torture undermined the more meaningful economic reforms.

The government continued to promise its bilateral donors that it wanted to improve its rights record and there was some progress even while it showed indifference or hostility to public protests at home. Early in May 2000, Minister of Legal Affairs Vincent Malambo met donors to report on the implementation of the government's National Capacity Building Program for Good Governance. Malambo presented a slightly revised document and also discussed the findings of four consultative meetings. Many of the fundamental human rights challenges that Zambia faces were recognized. Minister Malambo met on June 19 with a number of local nongovernmental organizations to discuss their participation in the July 2000 consultative group meeting.

For the first time the consultative group meeting was held in Lusaka, on July 17 and 18, following a full day of consultation on human rights and governance issues on July 16. It was a watershed event. Minister of Finance Katele Kalumba invited civil society groups, including Human Rights Watch, to attend the full meeting, including closed sessions with bilateral donors.

Restrictions on the freedom of association remained in force outside the meeting, where police arrested an opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) member of parliament and nine other constituency officials on July 16 for holding an "unlawful meeting" on June 14.

Opposition parties, NGOs, and other civic interest groups were regularly denied permission to assemble or had their meetings canceled on public security grounds. The ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), in contrast, continued to hold meetings, rallies, and pro-government demonstrations without permits.

Under Zambia's Public Order Act, any group of citizens wishing to hold a public demonstration must notify the police seven days before the demonstration. However, the police abused the law and arbitrarily determined when a gathering could or could not take place. Breaches of the law's provisions on lawful assembly carry a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment. On May 7, 2000, Inspector-General Sailus Ngangula said the police would continue to arrest people holding processions without permits since disregarding the Public Order Act could "create anarchy" in Zambia.

Opposition parties, NGOs and other civic interest groups have regularly been denied permission to assemble or had their meetings canceled on public security grounds. The ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), in contrast, continued to hold meetings, rallies, and pro-government demonstrations without permits.

On January 13, 2000 a joint opposition UPND, United National Independence Party (UNIP), and Zambia Alliance for Progress (ZAP) demonstration in Ndola, to demand the reinstatement of striking doctors who were dismissed, was canceled after police at the last minute revoked its permit. The authorities deployed riot police at Ndola Central Hospital to ensure the rally did not go ahead. On January 16, 2000, police in Solwezi arrested and charged opposition UPND leader Anderson Mazoka, Solwezi mayor Logan Shemena, and twenty other senior UPND party officials on a charge of holding a public meeting without a permit. Mazoka was arrested at a fund-raising braai (barbecue) for addressing the meeting. According to the UPND, the arrest was doubly arbitrary in that police had granted UPND Northwestern province chairperson Webster Makondo permission to hold the braai from 5:00pm until late. According to a press report, police chief Hudson Beenzu maintained that while a permission to hold a braai was given, this did not authorize Mazoka to address the gathering. The opposition UPND claimed that the police refused it permission to hold rallies in Lusitu, Chirundu, Siavonga and Chibombo districts in June and in Shesheke in July.

Attacks on freedom of expression by the Zambian authorities have continued in 2000. Six journalists from the privately owned Post newspaper were detained in March 1999 for publishing a story headlined "Angola Worries Zambia Army." The story criticized Zambia's military capability and preparedness in the face of a possible military attack from Angola. All the reporters, including editor-in-chief Fred M'membe were later charged with "espionage." Two of the journalists, Lubasi Katundu and Amos Malupenga, were on leave at the time of arrest while Rueben Phiri and Mukalya Nampito were out of the country. Their case was taken before the High Court on April 16, 1999 and on November 1, 1999, twelve other Post journalists appeared before the High Court in Lusaka on a charge of espionage. All twelve pleaded not guilty to the charge and were at liberty on bail. On August 18, the state dropped charges against all the journalists except editor-in-chief Fred Mmembe. An unexplained fire on September 3 at the Post offices damaged some equipment worth U.S.$500,000.

On January 24, 2000, following pressure from the Ministry of Information, the privately-owned Radio Phoenix announced it was discontinuing a live phone-in program, "Let the People Speak: The Doctor's Strike." The program was sponsored by human rights NGO AFRONET to provide a forum for striking resident doctors to air their grievances. Following AFRONET's public complaints about this incident, the program was restarted a few days later, but it was prerecorded, edited, and the phone-in was discontinued.

On January 4, 2000, after fifty-four-years residence in Zambia, sixty-two-year-old Asian and a British national, Majid Ticklay, was deported with one hour's notice to Britain after his letter to the Post appealing to Zambians of Asian origin to play a more active role in politics was published. The Minister of Home Affairs, Peter Machumgwa, announced in a press statement that Ticklay had been deported for "sowing messages designed to promote ethnic divisions, hatred, racial discrimination, and anarchy among the people of the county." He was deported under the Immigration and Deportation Act, which gives the minister discretionary powers to deport persons whose presence is deemed "inimical to the public interest."

Teddy Nondo continued to serve as deputy director of the Drug Enforcement Commission despite accusations that he tortured suspects in 1997. The Human Rights Commission recommended, in its March 30, 1998 report on allegations of torture of detainees following the 1997 coup attempt, that officers accused of the offense of torture, including Nondo, be retired in the public interest, but advised against instituting criminal proceedings. Article 15 of the Zambia Constitution forbids torture. A commission of inquiry into the evidence of torture was headed by High Court Judge Japhet Banda, who had himself sentenced to death fifty-nine of those accused, on the basis of confessions allegedly rendered under torture. It began hearings in late 1999. All those named in the Human Rights Commission torture report denied the charge during hearings. The commission of inquiry presented its completed report to President Chiluba in late July, but the report's findings had not been made public.

Defending Human Rights

In early 2000, human rights NGOs came under increasing attack from the government. On January 31 MMD chairperson for information and publicity Vernon Mwaanga warned that AFRONET and the Zambia Independent Monitoring Team (ZIMT) were a "danger to democracy" and could face deregistration if they continued "their irresponsible conduct." On February 2, the minister of information and broadcasting services, Newstead Zimba, warned that the government would take "drastic action" against two NGOs if they did not end their "betrayal" of Zambia. The relationship with human rights NGOs improved later in the year following the consultative group meeting. AFRONET published its third detailed human rights report in 2000.

The Role of the International Community

The World Bank's first ever consultative group meeting in Zambia in July provided greater transparency, due to good teamwork between Zambia's bilateral donors, a new more open team at the World Bank, and some political risk taking by the minister of finance. Human rights issues were openly discussed as integral to the larger concept of "good governance" during the meeting, and NGO observers attended for the first time. Sweden, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and the U.S. delivered strong speeches pushing for a further improvement in the government's human rights record. Surprisingly, the Netherlands was muted in voicing its human rights concerns. Zambia's cooperating partners indicated that they had plans to make available slightly over U.S. $1 billion (with U.S. $355 million for balance of payments and in support of Zambia's economic reform and poverty reduction programs). A number of donor countries retained performance-related benchmarks for balance of payments release.

The U.S. was not a major donor to Zambia. Its main focus was on Zambia as a country with three unstable neighbors: Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Zimbabwe. The U.S. also continued to support President Frederick Chiluba's mediation efforts in the war in the DRC.