Zambia Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Respect for human rights in Zambia has decreased in recent years. For example, anyone who criticizes the president on Facebook may end up in prison.

Abbreviated as ZWB by Abbreviationfinder, Zambia is a constitutional democracy with several political parties and general elections. But in practice, democracy works poorly. The 2016 election, won by the incumbent ruling party, was riddled with violence, restrictions on the press and the use of state funds for campaigning (see Current Policy). Opposition in the country is subject to regular harassment and it happens that leading politicians are arrested and charged with slander or other crimes.

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The right to freedom of assembly is enshrined in the Constitution, but is in practice circumscribed by the ordinance that requires a scheduled meeting to be reported to the police with seven days’ notice. Permits are often denied. Civil society organizations are vibrant but work in a difficult environment where they must seek new permits every five years.

Formally, women have the same rights as men. However, society is characterized by gender stereotyped values ​​and practices that make the woman’s position subordinate to that of the man (see Social conditions). Requirements that anyone who wishes to run for a political assignment must have an education equivalent to a high school diploma constitutes an obstacle for many women. The proportion of women in Zambia’s parliament is slightly below the average for sub-Saharan African countries. Since the 2016 election, 18 percent of MPs are women. Zambia got its first female vice president in January 2015 when Inonge Wina, former Minister for Child and Gender Equality, was appointed.

Same-sex sexual acts are punishable and the minimum sentence is 15 years in prison. LGBTQ people generally cannot live openly.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed in the constitution and is also followed in practice. At the same time, the Constitution states that Zambia is a Christian nation.

During MMD’s time in power (1991–2011), the government in various ways made the opposition’s ability to work more difficult. For example, parties and organizations were often denied permission to hold demonstrations and the opposition found it difficult to make its voice heard in the media. Similar criticisms have also been directed at PF when the party came into office in 2011.

In 2014, Zambia was ranked 67th out of 165 countries in The Economist magazine’s assessment of how democratic the countries of the world are. The investment was an improvement over 2010 when Zambia was in place 91. That investment was worse than most of Zambia’s neighboring countries, with the exception of Zimbabwe.

Corruption is widespread in society. Both individual organizations and the media report suspected cases. An anti-corruption authority makes investigations that sometimes lead to prosecution and conviction. In 2019, Zambia ranked 113th out of the 180 countries assessed by the Transparency International organization in its annual review of world corruption (see ranking list here). As a result, Zambia was in the better half among the African countries.

Media and freedom of speech

Freedom of speech is guaranteed in the Constitution, but not freedom of the press. However, freedom of expression can be restricted in order not to jeopardize the security of the country or the general morality. Expressing something that can be interpreted as insulting the president is illegal. In 2018, a doctor was sentenced to seven years in prison for having the president on his Facebook.

State TV and radio often act as a propaganda agency for the government and journalists who dare to be critical of the government risk harassment and ill-treatment. In 2018, Derrick Sinjela, editor-in-chief of a newspaper that revealed corruption in the Supreme Court, was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Reporters Without Borders estimates that the situation for press freedom has greatly deteriorated in Zambia over the past five years. The organization places the country in place 113 in its ranking of 180 countries.

The government monitors electronic communications and periodically closes the opposition’s websites.


The corruption is extensive. Transparency International places Zambia in place 105 in its ranking of perceived corruption in 180 countries. In 2018, several major donor countries, including Sweden, decided to withdraw aid after the US $ 4.5 million disappeared within the ministry. The president responded by immediately kicking two ministers, but by the end of 2018, no person had yet been charged.

Judiciary and legal security

According to the Constitution, the courts are independent in relation to the executive power, but the latter exerts informal pressure and often has a real influence on the judiciary, for example, the president appoints the seven judges of the Supreme Court.

Through a constitutional amendment in 2016, a constitutional court was also formed, which, in addition to purely constitutional issues, also handles disputes in connection with general elections. The fact that the Constitutional Court is equated with the Supreme Court is considered to be able to pray for legal ambiguities.

The legal security of the individual is neglected by human rights organizations. Long detention times are a widespread problem. Regime critics appear to be harassed by police and government loyalists. Arbitrary arrests are common. Police are often accused of corruption and accused of using brutal methods, including torture, in connection with interrogations. On several occasions shooting has occurred in connection with demonstrations. Very few complaints against police officers lead to legal penalties.

It seems that politicians are held accountable for crimes committed during the term of office, but this is unusual and often appears politically motivated. The very long processing times in the poorly resourced justice system in practice create an amnesty for the powerful and influential in society. The World Justice Project ranks Zambia 92 in its index of the rule of law in 126 countries in 2019.

The conditions in the overcrowded prisons are substandard. Torture at interrogation occurs according to the country’s Commission on Human Rights. The death penalty has not been abolished but has not been sentenced for many years and no executions have been carried out since 1997.

Zambia Crime Rate & Statistics



President Mwanawasa wins the election

President Mwanawasa wins the election with 43 percent of the vote against 29 percent for Michel Sata from the Patriotic Front (PF) and 25 percent for Hakainde Hichilema from the United Democratic Alliance (UDA). In the parliamentary elections held at the same time, MMD again becomes the largest party with 72 seats. The second largest is PF with 44 seats while UDA comes in third place with 27 seats. The turnout is 71 percent.


The president suffered a stroke

President Levy Mwanawasa suffers from stroke but is quickly back on his feet, explaining that he plans to run for re-election in September of that year.