President Levy Mwanawasa further delayed the constitutional review process, which was rescheduled for completion in 2011. The controversial National Constitution Conference Act was passed in August. Concerns were raised that the Act was not consistent with the recommendations of the Constitution Review Commission (CRC), which had called for the Constitution to be repealed and replaced.
The trial of former President Frederick Chiluba on charges of corruption was repeatedly postponed because of his poor health. However, in May, in a case brought by the Zambian government against Frederick Chiluba and 19 of his associates, the High Court of Justice of England and Wales ruled that Frederick Chiluba “actively participated” in large-scale money laundering in which two UK law firms were also complicit.
Freedom of expression and assembly
There were further reports of government officials threatening journalists critical of the government. Civil society organizations supporting the recommendations of the CRC found their freedom of assembly restricted.
- On 19 July, police in Lusaka prevented Q-FM, a private radio station, from covering live a demonstration outside Parliament organized by the OASIS forum, a coalition of civil society and church groups, and the Collaborative Group on the Constitution. Though the conveners of the demonstration had informed the police in advance, police claimed that the demonstration was illegal.
- In November, the government temporarily withdrew the passport of opposition leader Michael Sata after he returned from the USA where, in an address to students, he was allegedly critical of Chinese investments in Zambia. The Minister of Home Affairs, Ronnie Shikapwasha, accused him of obtaining the passport without following procedure.
In July the government introduced the NGO Bill in Parliament. Among other provisions, the Bill seeks to empower the Interior Minister to form a board comprised of eight government representatives and two representatives from civil society. The Board would have the power to reject applications for registration of an NGO if its proposed activities do not fit with an undefined “national development plan” for Zambia. Without proper safeguards, there were fears that some of the provisions of the Bill could be used by the government to curtail the work of civil society organizations and restrict their independence. In August, following pressure from civil society, the Minister of Justice deferred parliamentary debate on the Bill to allow for further consultation.
There were no executions in 2007. President Levy Mwanawasa commuted 97 death sentences to life imprisonment in August 2007. The commutation was without prejudice to the right of the prisoners to appeal for further clemency.