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Alba Iulia
Thursday, July 2, 2020

Zambia’s rule of law backslides down the slippery slope

Feature Politics Zambia’s rule of law backslides down the slippery slope

By Simon Wolfe

Shameless overreach by the government is having real-world effects on business and investment

Zambia has a long tradition of the rule of law, a clear separation of powers and an effective and responsible judiciary. So it is worrying that it is slipping down the World Justice Project rule of law index, with worsening scores in the categories of government powers, fundamental rights, absence of corruption, criminal justice and open government.

So too in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2019 democracy index, with authors citing particular concerns that “increased restrictions on the electoral process in Zambia reflected democratic backsliding and a retreat from political pluralism”.

The breakdown of the rule of law has economic consequences. Zambia ranked in the bottom 10 of the 76 participating jurisdictions in the world for mining investment, according to the Fraser Institute’s 2019 annual survey of mining companies, published in February 2020. The steep decline was attributed in part to regulatory inconsistencies as well as an unfavourable taxation regime.

What is going on? The rule of law is meant to safeguard a stable investment environment where investors, local or foreign, can trust that their assets won’t be affected by political whim. It also ensures that regulators and the courts remain impartial and free of political interference. The media is free to report on, criticise and challenge the government, the courts and the private and public sectors.

This seems to be breaking down in Zambia. A couple of months ago, a private TV company, Prime TV, was refused a licence by the government after it refused to air public messages about the coronavirus, saying it was still due payment by the state for past services. The matter has been referred to arbitration by the high court in Lusaka.

In another example, the ministry of mines & minerals development changed the system for export permits for minerals on June 10. The ministry will no longer accept samples submitted to the geological survey department in Lusaka. It believes exporters are submitting low-grade samples to the chemistry laboratory, undervaluing the value of mineral exports and affecting state revenues negatively. From July 1, ministry officials will be going directly to the mine sites and warehouses to collect the samples.

As permanent secretary Barnaby Mulenga said: “It is the desire of the government that the ministry gains full oversight of the mineral supply and value chain to ensure effective monitoring of mineral production and exports.”

An over-encroachment by the government or government-owned or controlled “private entities” is having a real-world negative commercial impact. We are seeing this play out now in the dispute between the Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) and the state-owned Zesco and KCM. This has escalated so quickly that observers were shocked by the government’s unashamedly inappropriate intervention in expropriating CEC’s infrastructure through a statutory instrument and protecting an indebted company.

Concern is also building over the proposed “Bill 10”, which according to Zambian constitutional law expert Prof Muna Ndulo “is designed to remove parliamentary oversight over the presidency and thereby install a constitutional dictatorship. It attempts to manipulate the electoral system to ensure that the ruling party remains in power in perpetuity.”

The rule of law and separation of powers are meant to build institutional defences against the creation of absolute power. When one part of the system becomes too powerful (in this case the presidency), other bodies such as parliament or public regulators naturally defer to that power. By this the framework has not necessarily changed, but the effect of their respective powers has. Critically important and supposedly objective institutions remain independent in name only.

Energy minister Mathew Nkhuwa tried to reassure the Zambian public at a media conference on June 17 that the government was not nationalising CEC. He referred to CEC’s listing on the Lusaka Stock Exchange and the more than 4,000 Zambian retail shareholders (not to mention the 110,000 Zambian pension holders) who are invested in the private company. However, with the state-controlled Energy Regulation Board unilaterally imposing uncommercial tariffs on CEC, the minister’s comments are unlikely to calm local and international investors.

There are other reasons to keep an eye on Zambia, including concerns over a breakdown of the power supply and the country’s inability to pay for electricity imports, which could push it further towards debt distress.

The breakdown of the rule of law in neighbouring Tanzania, and the effect this has had on its economy, should also set off alarm bells for Zambians. Tanzanian President John Magufuli has declared a populist “economic war”, simultaneously cementing his own grip on power and causing investor confidence to plummet. Foreign investment has decreased by 30% in the five years since Magufuli came to power.

• Wolfe is MD of international advisory firm Marlow Strategy, which operates across Africa.


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  1. indeed it is really shameful , but we shall not allow Bill 10 and now supporting all our UPND and opposition MPs not to support it

    • Just say it @Kalaba. The balls you are talking about are not the same as those that the law has. You are the sort that have allowed politicians to elevate themselves above the law, asking you think theirs are bigger. The law equates all of them whether for a big crime or small one.

  2. what a country we live in!!!! @Mwape I agree with you….welcome to zambia where we buy a bicycle @ 700 US dollars!!!

  3. Lungu should be in Jail for shielding thieves, man. Only a thief can shield thieves! Can someone tell me again what ECL was. A humble man? Common, Lungu store from an unsuspecting widow before he became a Monkey looking after a a banana Plantation! You guys are all sick!

  4. We know who the Chief Lawbreaker is, don’t worry we’ll deal with him soon. We’ve just kept our fingers crossed as time ticks away. There’s no one who has ever defeated the collective resolve of Zambians

  5. Only because Zambians are ignorant

    Lungu is desperate for western help without which he will not survive in the his current form, …….

    If all aggrieved Zambians just google the IMF , world bank and random western aid countries for email addresses and complain enmass ,

    Lungu will not be given any money.

  6. Just because your friend eats faeces, does that mean that even you faeces are applicable to you ? Every case is different and decisions are made on a case by case basis based on the merits and evidence and circumstances. I do not have a law degree but even I can use my common sense to deduce that. Ubupuba waba opposition naba diaspora kiki

  7. If these cockroaches win again we are in trouble…Lungu should be arrested immediately after the PF loses.
    This is sick, guys…a minister has been arrested for corruption…no statement from the government or the so called President.
    The PF thinks Zambia belongs to the ministers and Lungu.

    I have had enough I can’t take any more.

  8. Let lungus thugs and police control the streets , but mass media must be controlled by democratic Zambians.

    Lungu ,

    your war police and war machines can never silence us ,

    Lungu ,

    You can brutalise some Zambians on the ground in Zambia, but like the 50 innocent murdered victims of your gassing, we will give them a voice and make sure everybody hears their plight,…….

    Palaste kuya bebele ba PF

  9. KZ

    ” Every case is different and decisions are made on a case by case basis based on the merits and evidence and circumstances. I do not have a law degree but even I can use my common sense to deduce that. …”

    Only the PF rats see looting and stealing tax payers money as a lesser crime than opposing lungu, if you can call opposing lungu a crime.

  10. As the Apostle Paul says in the book of Colossians chapter three, verse 23 to 24 – whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the lord, not for human masters, knowing that from the lord, you will receive the inheritance as your reward. The verse used in our dear President’s address today. Meaning, whatever you steal, work at it with all your heart, as stealing is for our pockets, not for dumb Zambians, knowing that from the loot, you will receive the inheritance for your offspring.”
    The blasphemy and thuggery of it all!!!

  11. Why do we have problems. They drank chibuku and voted. Then they forgot to guard the vote for those who didn’t drink chibuku. Adding the two produced the current fimo fimo which when pregnant produced cadres and thieves. Here we are with full blown kids of fimo fimo!! Why are we surprised!!
    What is the cure?? The answer is YOU!!

  12. I just want to Kaizer Zulu running butt naked from manda hill to the Avondale complex when PF is shown the exit door. He promised.

    Take a dishonest alcoholic from the Ghetto, where he resided cause he failed to thrive in his personal /professional life & place him in Plot #1.
    Even Guy Sc0tt tried his best to warn Zambians about the folly of putting this guy who had a poor work ethic, & repeatedly reported inebriated for work into State House BUT Zambians & Mama In0nge got angry, telling Scott “where to go”
    MWAZIONA ALUNGU, MWAONA LELO, as Paul Ngozi sang.
    J0na embezzled a W!dows cash, do you honestly think he sees anything out of order with K.K -Kitalu Kilufya’s dishonest pilfering ways?
    Lastly, P.F.KUYABEBELE!

  14. No insults here, you full called Kaizer. Just post your comment in a civilized manner, don’t forget that if you call others ubupuba, they might call you back the same

  15. Can you in imagine in parliament when some one asked a question to debate the presidential impeachment the speaker ruled that matter was in court therefore there can be NO debate until the matter was over by courts.
    Later the same speaker was asked if the matter in court concerning Mr Kambwili can be debated he said he has the power to preside over and NO court can interfere. The law only does not matter to the ruling and allies.
    This is on record even in daily mail on 24.06.2020 its there.Now if the CHIEF makers of laws is not giving a clear direction what kind of state are we going to have? Others may answer CONFUSED STATE..

  16. The same rule of law or simply law and order framework authorizes government to hold every human being and every legal person accountable. A legitimate government of the people holds power in trust for the purpose of protecting human life and property. It is shocking that Prime TV could be exempted from licence renewal and from airing COVID 19 alerts. The matter will be settled internally without any form of pressure, intimidation or blackmail. Two, fraud needs to be eliminated from the tax system of the country. The mining companies are also accountable to tax authorities. Checking mineral value at the source is normal and was long overdue. Three, CEC is not above the law, neither is ZESCO. The two entities will work out modalities of transition into a new arrangement. If ZESCO is not…

  17. Three, CEC is not above the law, neither is ZESCO. The two entities will work out modalities of transition into a new arrangement. If ZESCO is not happy, then CEC also has an obligation to address concerns raised by ZESCO. On Bill No 10, it is the genius of Zambian people to debate candidly about trivial and non trivial issues. Big Government is more suitable for Developing Countries to guarantee maximum inclusion of far flung regions and districts. Take time to kill the messenger. Take tie to participate in internal democratic debates.

  18. Thieves & economic plunderers like Kaizar Zulu should be paraded and hanged to death or face the firing squad in public.

    That should send a message tulo Lungu & his cobalt of thieves that Zambia sichalo chanyoko

  19. KZ needs psychotic treatment to be normal. Note; he has tangent views on every story that come on this site. He qualifies as a guinea pig for diagnostic training. Since he is in UK but thinks positively is in Zambia is one evidence of being MAD. KZ will be sectioned and put in isolation for his and other people safety.

  20. I agree with him on the bond denied for Tukuta. It is really unfair to deny bond for Tukuta while giving Chilufya. PF on this you have to seriously reflect on it as this is tarnishing your name. On the other issues I disagree with this man whose aim is to appropriate the Zambian resources with impunity. The CEC was set up by the privatization criminals to perpetuate their criminality by riding on the back of ZESCO. These criminals are well known. What GRZ has done on ECEC is recomendable.

  21. The article has been overtaken by circumstances. Zambia is our country and these diasporas cannot talk talk chabe as if they are living here. Africaand its leadership should not be compared to western countries. We have been in existence for ages and just imagine, the same western governments are brain draining our brilliant young men and women to their countries instead of equiping them to settle in their indigenous countries. Africa is for African!

  22. I think Wolfe does not have good intentions for either Zambia or Tanzania. When we put aside our differences on Bill No 10.
    You will see that largely Wolfe critisizes those actions taken to impower the two countries.

  23. The article is poorly written. It speaks of several issues without objectively addressing them. Who does the law serve?
    The laws in Zambia serve those that live within the borders of Zambia. The intent by government to ensure that that which is being declared by Mining companies is addressing a loop hole that Government through ZRA has recognized. Should mining companies continue to take advantage of Government by evading tax? Whats wrong with the change? Isn’t that a contradiction of the very statement of purpose of the article? Isnt it Justice that which the law is created? I ask the editors and the reporters to think through what they write. What are they conveying, why are they conveying, is it backed by fact? The intent of journalism is multifaceted and grounded on ethics and…


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