Zambia

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, it has provisions that permit restrictions of these fundamental rights and freedoms in certain circumstances. In particular Article 22(3) allows the restriction of freedom of expression in the interests of national defense, public safety, public order, and public health, or for the purpose of protecting the reputations, rights, and freedoms of others and maintaining the authority and independence of the courts. Based on these provisions, the government may restrict these freedoms using subsidiary laws such as the Penal Code, Public Order Act, Preservation of Public Security Act, and Emergency Powers Act.

Freedom of Speech: The government remained sensitive to criticism–particularly from the political opposition and civil society–and restricted the ability of individuals to criticize it freely or discuss matters of general public interest. For example, on March 13, the acting chief registrar of the High Court banned prominent Lusaka lawyer John Sangwa from appearing before court because he stated that Constitutional Court judges were “unqualified and incompetent.” Local and international organizations condemned the ban, including the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and the International Bar Association. On June 2, the chief registrar rescinded the ban.

Freedom of Press and Media, Including Online Media: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views but not without some restrictions. The government published two of the country’s four most widely circulated newspapers. One of the two privately owned newspapers opposed the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party, while the other supported the party and the government. Opposition political parties and civil society organizations contended government-run media failed to report objectively.

In addition to a multichannel government-controlled radio station that broadcasts nationwide, 73 private and community radio stations broadcast locally. Some radio stations experienced political pressure. Although some local private stations broadcast call-in and other talk programs on which diverse and critical viewpoints were expressed freely, media bodies claimed journalists who appeared on such programs received threats from senior government officials and politicians if seen as too critical. Independent private media outlets also often received threats from the government for providing broadcast time to the opposition. For example, on August 13, Petauke district commissioner Velenasi Banda ordered the brief closure of the Petauke Association of Small and Medium Entrepreneurs FM radio station in Eastern Province for broadcasting a program featuring United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema. The Independent Broadcasting Authority and the NGO Media Institute for Southern Africa condemned the action.

Violence and Harassment: According to media watchdog organizations, independent media did not operate freely due to restrictions imposed by government authorities. While the government broadly tolerated negative articles in newspapers and magazines, there were numerous reports of government officials and ruling party supporters harassing and physically disrupting the work of journalists.

Police reportedly did not sufficiently investigate cases of assaults against journalists, and some media houses were impeded from broadcasting or threatened with closure for unfavorable reporting or insufficient coverage of the president. For example, on May 13, Mpika district commissioner Moses Katebe prevented broadcast journalists from hosting UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema on radio. Also in May, PF activists disrupted an Isoka Community Radio Station live broadcast featuring Hichilema. In June, PF militants again disrupted a live radio broadcast featuring Hichilema in Chama by cutting off the station’s electric power.

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government remained sensitive to media criticism and indirectly censored publications or penalized publishers. Numerous media watchdog organizations reported harassment and arrests related to information disseminated on social media, threats by the government to introduce punitive legislation against media personnel, restriction of their access to public places, and undue influence compromised media freedom and resulted in self-censorship.

Authorities penalized media that criticized the government by withholding licenses and government advertising funds. For example, on April 9, the government–through the Independent Broadcasting Authority–closed Prime TV, a leading independent media company that broadcast objective and balanced criticism of the government and PF party, ostensibly for failing to apply for renewal of its operating license on time. The closure followed the television station’s refusal to broadcast government COVID-19 announcements at no charge because station management stated the government was in arrears in payments to the station.

Libel/Slander Laws: The government and individual public figures used laws against libel and slander against critics to restrict public discussion or retaliate against political opponents. The government also often used sedition laws against government critics. For example, in January, Minister of Justice Given Lubinda, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Jean Kapata, and President Lungu’s daughter, Tasila Lungu, sued the newspaper News Diggers, its editor Mukosha Funga, and the NGO Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) for libel. The suit was filed in response to the publication of an EIA report alleging their involvement in the illegal harvesting and export of timber from protected Mukula rosewood trees. Mukula timber is highly valued on the international market, and the tree is a listed among endangered species by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Minister of Energy Matthews Nkhuwa and PF Member of Parliament Sebastian Kopulande also sued opposition UPND Central Member of Parliament Cornelius Mweetwa and journalists Speedwell Mapuchi and Larry Monze of the newspaper The Mast for libel because they wrote that the minister and Kopulande illicitly procured 264,172 gallons of fuel.

Although government generally did not restrict access, and individuals and groups could freely express their views via the internet, the government threatened individuals using online fora with arrest and online media with closure. According to the Zambia Information Communications Technology Authority, it has the capacity to monitor WhatsApp conversations and disable any communication device. In August 2019 the newspaper Wall Street Journal alleged that a government cybercrime squad intercepted encrypted communications and tracked data from the mobile phones of some opposition bloggers who had repeatedly criticized the president. Senior ruling party officials dismissed the allegation as “fake news.” On March 9, police arrested a boy age 15 and charged him with libel. He was accused of using a Facebook account under the name “Zoom” to defame and insult the president. The NGO Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services Initiative reported that the boy’s arrest engendered fear among internet users who practiced increased self-censorship as a result.

During the year authorities attempted to restrict academic freedom and cultural events. On April 29, local media reported that the University of Zambia had prepared a staff code of conduct that targeted whistleblowers and provided university administrators the authority to dismiss lecturers who criticized the government or the university. Academics expressed concern that the code would stifle academic freedom if implemented. The code had yet to be implemented by year’s end.

Restrictions existed on artistic presentations or other cultural activities, including music lyrics and theatrical performances. For example authorities continued to ban the music of hip-hop artist Pilato from being broadcast on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation outlets and other state media. Private radio stations continued to play his music, except for two of his songs that criticized the president (see section 1.e.).

The government at times restricted peaceful assembly, while generally respecting freedom of association.

The constitution provides for the right of freedom of peaceful assembly; however, the government at times restricted this right, and police and progovernment groups disrupted opposition political meetings, rallies, and other activities.

While authorities generally allowed protests and rallies, police frequently required opposition party or civil society organizations critical of the government to hold events at unfavorable locations and times. The Public Order Act requires political parties and other groups to notify police in advance of any rallies but does not require a formal approval or permit. In 1995 the Supreme Court declared provisions in the act that previously gave police the power to regulate assemblies, public meetings, or processions unconstitutional. Police, however, continued to disregard this landmark ruling and stopped opposition and civil society groups from holding public gatherings. For example, on June 23, police prevented a planned demonstration protesting lacking government transparency and accountability regarding the use of public resources. In January police prevented opposition parties from holding by-election campaign events on Chilubi Island during a presidential visit. On January 21, the Electoral Commission of Zambia described this action and ruling party measures to prevent opposition members’ access to the island by ferry as “electoral malpractice.”

The constitution provides for freedom of association. While the government generally respected the right to freedom of association, it placed some limits on this right through various mechanisms. For example, although it generally went unenforced, the NGO Act requires all organizations to apply for registration from the registrar of societies. The registration process is stringent and lengthy and gives the registrar considerable discretion. The law also places restrictions on funding from foreign sources. For this reason donors, including some UN agencies, required all organizations to register under the NGO Act before receiving funding. According to the Southern African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, government implementation of the NGO Act and NGO policy negatively affected the operations of civil society organizations because it gave authorities the power to monitor and restrict their legitimate activities.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. In April, however, immigration authorities blocked international travel by Mopani Copper Mines Chief Executive Officer Nathan Bullock after Mopani’s parent company, the Anglo-Swiss multinational Glencore Plc, announced plans to close the Mopani mine temporarily. Government authorities stated Bullock had been advised not to leave the country while negotiations on the mine’s status were ongoing.

In-country Movement: The government intermittently restricted freedom of internal movement for internally displaced persons, refugees, and stateless persons. Although police generally used roadblocks to control criminal activity, enforce customs and immigration controls, check drivers’ documents, and inspect vehicles for safety compliance, there were reports police used such interventions to limit participation in political gatherings, especially during parliamentary and local government by-elections.

There were not large numbers of internally displaced persons. The government promoted the safe resettlement of the few groups displaced for construction or other government-sanctioned activities.

The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, and other persons of concern.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: UNHCR reported no cases of abuse of migrants, refugees or stateless persons. Unlike prior years, there were no reports of sexual or gender-based violence against refugees during the year.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has a system for providing protection to refugees. The law gives the minister of home affairs wide discretion to deport refugees without appeal or to deny asylum to applicants having asylum status in other countries; however, there were no reported cases of asylum denial to applicants having asylum status in other countries or of refugee deportation.

Freedom of Movement: The government has made a number of reservations to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, including the freedom of movement. For example, the established encampment policy requires recognized refugees to reside in one of three designated refugee settlements. As a result nearly 63,000 of the nearly 69,000 refugees and asylum seekers live in settlements. Only refugees who have received a permit for work, study, health, or protection reasons may stay legally in urban areas. Refugees in the settlements may obtain passes to leave the settlements for up to 60 days, but police officers’ unfamiliarity with different permits and passes put them at risk of administrative detention. In May, Minister of Home Affairs Kampyongo ordered entry and exit restrictions at refugee settlements as a COVID-19 mitigation measure. UNHCR reported that following the minister’s announcement, authorities restricted the movement of refugees by limiting the issuance of mobility passes. Refugees who were prevented from leaving suffered loss of work and other opportunities to earn their livelihoods. From May 12-14, refugees at Mayukwayukwa refugee settlement protested restrictions on internal movement.

Employment: The law requires refugees to obtain work permits before they may engage in employment, including self-employment activities. Issuance of employment permits is subject to normal immigration procedures, including the application of a government policy that requires the immigration department to ascertain that there is no qualified and available citizen to perform the job.

Access to Basic Services: The government provided basic social services, including education, housing, and health care to refugees without discrimination. The government provided primary and secondary education in refugee settlements, and secondary school for refugees living in urban areas, but it required a student permit and the payment of school fees.

Durable Solutions: The government promoted safe, voluntary return, resettlement, and local integration of refugees and stateless persons. UNHCR reported that the government issued residence permits to refugees with Angolan and Rwandan passports and offered them land as part of a local integration program. Some were provided with residency.

In a joint effort by the government, UNHCR, and international and local NGOs, settlement areas in Mantapala, Mayukwayukwa, and Meheba provided refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo an opportunity to settle permanently in these three locations. Refugees were provided land for agricultural use as well as space for housing near social services. The areas include established villages as a way to promote local integration of refugees.

Temporary Protection: The government continued to provide temporary protection to stateless persons. In 2019 the government provided protection to 4,179 asylum seekers. According to the Office of the Commissioner for Refugees, as of October approximately 5,000 asylum seekers awaited status determination.

According to UNHCR, the country has no provision for maintaining statistical information regarding stateless persons. In 2019 the Ministry of Home Affairs reported a relatively small number of undocumented habitual residents–mainly hunters and gatherers–were integrated into local rural communities following the destruction of their natural habitat due to development activities. The government continued to issue national identity documents to them. The Department of Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit, under the Office of the Vice President, assists stateless persons.

Section 7. Worker Rights

The law provides for the right of most workers to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. Statutory restrictions regulate these rights; the government has discretionary power to exclude certain categories of workers from unionizing, including prison staff, judges, court registrars, magistrates, and local court justices. The law also requires the registration of a trade union with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, which may take up to six months. The ministry has the power to refuse official registration on arbitrary or ambiguous grounds.

No organization may be registered as a trade union unless its application is signed by at least 50 employees or such lesser number as may be prescribed by the Minister of Labor and Social Security. With some exceptions, a trade union may not be registered if it claims to represent a class of employees already represented by an existing trade union. Unions may be deregistered under certain circumstances, but the law provides for notice, reconsideration, and right of appeal to an industrial relations court.

The government, through the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, brokers labor disputes between employers and employees. Casualization and unjustifiable termination of employment contracts is illegal. The law defines a casual employee as an employee engaged for less than a day.

In cases involving the unjustified dismissal of employees, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security settles disputes through social dialogue, and any unresolved cases are sent to the Industrial Relations Division of the High Court. Penalties were not commensurate with those for other similar violations. The law also provides a platform for employers, workers, and government to discuss matters of mutual interest through the Tripartite Consultative Labor Council.

The law provides for collective bargaining. In certain cases, however, either party may refer a labor dispute to a court or for arbitration. The International Labor Organization raised concerns the law did not require the consent of both parties involved in the dispute for arbitration. The law also allows for a maximum period of one year for a court to consider the complaint and issue a ruling. Collective bargaining agreements must be filed with the commissioner and approved by the minister before becoming binding on the signatory parties.

With the exception of workers engaged in a broadly defined range of essential services, the law provides for the right to strike if all legal options are first exhausted. The law defines essential services as fire departments, the mining sector, sewage removal, and any activity relating to the generation, supply, or distribution of electricity and water. Employees in the defense force and judiciary as well as police, prison, and intelligence service personnel are also considered essential. The process of exhausting the legal alternatives to a strike is lengthy. The law also requires a union to notify employers 10 days in advance of strike action and limits the maximum duration of a strike to 14 days. If the dispute remains unresolved, it is referred to the court. The government may stop a strike if the court finds it is not “in the public interest.” Workers who engage in illegal strikes may be dismissed by employers.

The law prohibits antiunion discrimination and employer interference in union functions, and it provides for reinstatement and other remedies for workers fired for union activity. Except for workers in “essential services,” no other groups of workers are excluded from relevant legal protections. The law covers workers in the informal sector but is seldom applied. Administrative judicial procedures were subject to lengthy delays and appeals.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. Penalties for employers were not commensurate with those for similar violations and were not effectively enforced. During the year the government interfered with the administrative affairs of trade unions. In February the Ministry of Labor and Social Security terminated the recognition agreement between the University of Zambia and the University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers Union after the union protested against erratic payment of lecturers’ salaries and criticized poor government funding to the university. In August, however, the Lusaka High Court nullified the termination and restored the agreement. Other challenges that constrained effective enforcement included unaligned pieces of legislation, lack of financial capacity to implement programs, and lack of trained officers to enforce legislation.

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor. The law authorizes the government to call upon citizens to perform labor in specific instances, such as during national emergencies or disasters. The government also may require citizens to perform labor associated with traditional, civil, or communal obligations.

An employment code passed in 2019 criminalizes all forms of forced or compulsory labor. Penalties for conviction of violations range from a fine, up to two years’ imprisonment, or both. Penalties were commensurate with those for similar violations.

The government did not effectively enforce the law. While the government investigated cases involving a small number of victims, it did not investigate more organized trafficking operations potentially involving forced labor in the mining, construction, and agricultural sectors. According to the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), there is no standard system for collecting data on forced labor.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.

The law prohibits all of the worst forms of child labor, but gaps hamper adequate protection of children. The law prohibits the employment of children younger than age 15 at any commercial, agricultural, or domestic worksite or engaging a child in the worst forms of child labor. The employment code consolidates all child-related labor laws into a single law to provide regulations on the employment and education of children. Restrictions on child labor prohibit work that harms a child’s health and development or that prevents a child’s attendance at school.

The government did not effectively enforce the law in the informal sector, where child labor was prevalent. Resources, inspections, and remediation were inadequate. The law does not stipulate an age for compulsory education, and children who were not enrolled were vulnerable to child labor.

While the labor commissioner enforced minimum age requirements in the industrial sector, where there was little demand for child labor, the government seldom enforced minimum age standards in the informal sector, particularly in artisanal mining, agriculture, and domestic service. Although the government reported a National Child Labor Steering Committee composed of government ministries oversaw child labor activities, the Zambian Federation for Employers, the ZCTU, civil society, and other stakeholders stated the committee was not active during the year. The government collaborated with local and international organizations to implement programs combatting child labor. Because most child labor occurred in the agricultural sector, often on family farms or with the consent of families, inspectors from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security focused on counseling and educating families that employed children. In some cases such work also exposed children to hazardous conditions. Scarcity of financial and human resources, including lack of transportation, hampered the ability of labor inspectors and law enforcement agencies to investigate alleged violations and successfully prosecute cases.

Child labor was prevalent in agriculture, fisheries, domestic service, construction, farming, commercial sexual exploitation (see section 6, Children), quarrying, begging and mining. UNICEF noted discrepancies between the right to education and child labor laws in the country; the employment code allows children ages 13 to 15 legally to be engaged in work, which conflicts with the child’s right to education.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/findings , and the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods .

The employment code prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, color, sex, ethnicity, disability, age, or refugee status but does not specifically prohibit such discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Various organizations had policies that protected individuals with HIV/AIDS. Although the employment code provides for maternity leave, it requires a worker be continuously employed for two years before being eligible for such leave. Some NGOs warned the code was likely to have a negative impact on women because potential employers would see hiring them as a financial risk, since the increased maternity leave allowance provides for up to 14 weeks with full pay. The law prohibits termination or imposition of any penalty or disadvantage to an employee due to pregnancy.

The government did not consistently enforce the law. There were reports of discrimination against minority groups. Undocumented migrant workers are not protected by the law and faced discrimination in wages and working conditions.

Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to gender, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. LGBTI persons were at times dismissed from employment or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Women’s wages lagged behind men’s, and training opportunities were less available for women. Women were much less likely to occupy managerial positions. Persons with disabilities faced significant societal discrimination in employment, education, and access to the workplace.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The law allows the Ministry of Labor and Social Security to set wages by sector; the category of employment determines the minimum wage and conditions of employment. The minimum wage categories, last revised in 2019, at the low end were slightly above World Bank poverty estimates for a lower-middle income country but lower than the Basic Needs Basket. Before an employee commences employment or when the nature of employment changes, an employer is required to explain employee conditions of employment, including with regard to wages. For unionized workers, wage scales and maximum workweek hours were established through collective bargaining. Almost all unionized workers received salaries considerably higher than the nonunionized minimum wage. Penalties for violations of wage and hour laws were commensurate with those for similar violations.

According to the law, the normal workweek should not exceed 48 hours. The standard workweek is 40 hours for office workers and 45 hours for factory workers. There are limits on excessive compulsory overtime, depending on the category of work. The law provides for overtime pay. Employers must pay employees who work more than 48 hours in one week (45 hours in some categories) for overtime hours at a rate of 1.5 times the hourly rate. Workers receive double the rate of their hourly pay for work done on a Sunday or public holiday. The law requires that workers earn two days of annual leave per month without limit.

The law regulates minimum occupational safety and health (OSH) standards in industry. According to Workers Compensation Fund Control Board and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, government OSH standards are appropriate for the main industries. The law places on both workers and experts the duty to identify unsafe situations in a work environment.

The government did not consistently enforce the law. Inspection was inadequate and did not extend to the informal sector. Safety and health standards were only applied in certain sectors of the formal economy. According to the ZCTU, compliance levels to standardized overtime pay were low due to insufficient enforcement.

During the year media reported incidents of Chinese-owned firms forcing workers into quarantine to prevent the spread COVID-19 among them. For example, the state-run newspaper Zambia Daily Mail reported that in May, five workers at the Chinese Dafa Construction Company in Chongwe were quarantined at their worksite for two months. One of the five workers stated, “We have not been to our homes, and it is against our wish. We eat well, but our employers don’t allow us to go to our homes saying we will contract COVID 19” if we leave. Additionally, the Chinese-owned truck assembly factory Delta, allegedly quarantined six Zambian workers by force in a container as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security shut down two other Chinese companies for violating labor laws by quarantining their workers in unventilated rooms for two months. According to labor reports, Chueng Zhu Hardware detained 15 workers for more than two months without pay, Louise Investment Limited had 13 employees locked up in a single room, and another Chinese store, Kaikai Hardware, locked up 12 workers. According to the ZCTU, the effected employees received no overtime pay or additional compensation, the ZCTU reported.

The government engaged with mining companies and took some steps to improve working conditions in the mines. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, but authorities did not effectively protect employees in these situations. Despite these legal protections, workers generally did not exercise the right to remove themselves from work situations that endangered their safety or health, and workers who protested working conditions often jeopardized their employment.

Violations of wage, overtime, or OSH standards were most common in the construction and mining sectors–particularly in Chinese-owned companies–and among domestic workers.

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