History of Zambia

Published on 13th September 2005

The indigenous hunter-gatherer occupants of Zambia began to be displaced or absorbed by more advanced migrating tribes about 2,000 years ago. The major waves of Bantu-speaking immigrants began in the 15th century, with the greatest influx between the late 17th and early 19th centuries. They came primarily from the Luba and Lunda tribes of Southern Democratic Republic of Congo and Northern Angola but were joined in the 19th century by Ngoni peoples from the south. By the latter part of that century, the various peoples of Zambia were largely established in the areas they currently occupy. 

Except for an occasional Portuguese explorer, the area lay untouched by Europeans for centuries until after the mid-19th century when it was penetrated by Western explorers, missionaries, and traders.  

A two-stage election held in October and December 1962 resulted in an African majority in the legislative council and an uneasy coalition between the two African nationalist parties. The council passed resolutions calling for Northern Rhodesia\'s secession from the federation and demanding full internal self-government under a new constitution and a new national assembly based on a broader, more democratic franchise. On December 31, 1963, the federation was dissolved, and Northern Rhodesia became the Republic of Zambia on October 24, 1964.   

At independence,  Zambia faced major challenges. Domestically, there were few trained and educated Zambians capable of running the government, and the economy was largely dependent on foreign expertise. Abroad, three of its neighbors--Southern Rhodesia and the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola--remained under white-dominated rule. Rhodesia\'s white-ruled government unilaterally declared independence in 1965. In addition, Zambia shared a border with South African-controlled South-West Africa (now Namibia). Zambia\'s sympathies lay with forces opposing colonial or white-dominated rule, particularly in Southern Rhodesia. During the next decade, it actively supported movements such as the Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA), the Zimbabwe African People\'s Union (ZAPU), the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC), and the South-West Africa People\'s Organization (SWAPO). 

Conflicts with Rhodesia resulted in the closing of Zambia\'s borders with that country and severe problems with international transport and power supply. However, the Kariba hydroelectric station on the Zambezi River provided sufficient capacity to satisfy the country\'s requirements for electricity. A railroad to the Tanzanian port of Dar es Salaam, built with Chinese assistance, reduced Zambian dependence on railroad lines south to South Africa and west through an increasingly troubled Angola. 

By the late 1970s, Mozambique and Angola had attained independence from Portugal. Zimbabwe achieved independence in accordance with the 1979 Lancaster House agreement, but Zambia\'s problems were not solved. Civil war in the former Portuguese colonies generated refugees and caused continuing transportation problems. The Benguela Railroad, which extended west through Angola, was essentially closed to traffic from Zambia by the late 1970s. Zambia\'s strong support for the ANC, which had its external headquarters in Lusaka, created security problems as South Africa raided ANC targets in Zambia. 

In the mid-1970s, the price of copper, Zambia\'s principal export, suffered a severe decline worldwide. Zambia turned to foreign and international lenders for relief, but as copper prices remained depressed, it became increasingly difficult to service its growing debt. By the mid-1990s, despite limited debt relief, Zambia\'s per capita foreign debt remained among the highest in the world. 

Zambia became a republic immediately upon attaining independence in October 1964. The constitution promulgated on August 25, 1973, abrogated the original 1964 constitution. The new constitution and the national elections that followed in December 1973 were the final steps in achieving what was called a \"one-party participatory democracy.\" 

The 1973 constitution provided for a strong president and an unicameral National Assembly. National policy was formulated by the Central Committee of the United National Independence Party (UNIP), the sole legal party in Zambia. The cabinet executed the central committee\'s policy. 

In accordance with the intention to formalize UNIP supremacy in the new system, the constitution stipulated that the sole candidate in elections for the office of president was the person selected to be the president of UNIP by the party\'s general conference. The second-ranking person in the Zambian hierarchy was UNIP\'s secretary general. 

In December 1990, at the end of a tumultuous year that included riots in the capital and a coup attempt, President Kenneth Kaunda signed legislation ending UNIP\'s monopoly on power. In response to growing popular demand for multi-party democracy, and after lengthy, difficult negotiations between the Kaunda government and opposition groups, Zambia enacted a new constitution in August 1991. The constitution enlarged the National Assembly from 136 members to a maximum of 158 members, established an electoral commission, and allowed for more than one presidential candidate who no longer had to be a member of UNIP. The constitution was amended again in 1996 to set new limits on the presidency (including a retroactive two-term limit, and a requirement that both parents of a candidate be Zambian-born). 

The one-party state was abolished and free elections were held in October, 1991. Kaunda and UNIP were defeated eighty per cent to twenty per cent by the newly formed Movement for Multi-party Democracy, a broad coalition of different interest groups.

The MMD’s Frederick Chiluba, a trade unionist who had been locked up by Kaunda, became Zambia’s second president. He promised democratic, transparent and accountable governance.

Upon assuming the presidency, Chiluba made christianity the official state religion. And on the economic front the government embarked on an economic reform programme. It abolished foreign exchange controls, passed new investment laws, set up a stock exchange, and embarked on a privatisation programme which at one point was dubbed by the World Bank as the best on the continent. All this led to Zambia being courted enthusiastically by aid donors, and saw a surge, in investor confidence in the country reflected in a growing number of investors. But in the \'90\'s there was a cooling in relations with the donors amid negative perceptions of constitutional tinkering ahead of the November 1996 elections, which prevented former president Kenneth Kaunda from standing as a presidential candidate. The elections in 1996 saw blatant harassment of opposition parties.

In 2001 Chiluba announced he was going to amend the constitution and stand for a third term. The public outcry was immense amid increasing allegations of corruption. He finally agreed to stand down and named Levy Mwanawasa as his successor.  After a very controversial election in Dec 2001, MMD won again and Mwanawasa was sworn in as President. The election was marked by administrative problems with at least two parties filing legal petitions challenging the results. Opposition parties currently hold a majority of seats in the National Assembly.

Below is an analysis of Zambia according to The 2005 Index of Economic Freedom, The Heritage Foundation Heritage and The Wall Street Journal:

Rank: 106

Score: 3.40

Category: Mostly Unfree

Population: 10, 244, 000

Total area:  752, 614 sq. km

GDP: $4.3 billion

GDP growth rate: 3.3%

GDP per capita: $422

Major exports: copper, cobalt, tobacco, electricity

Exports of goods and services: $2.2 billion

Major export trading partners: Malawi 10.2%, Thailand 9.2%, Japan 9.0%, South Africa 7.8%

Major imports: transport equipment and machinery, petroleum products, electricity, clothing

Imports of goods and services: $1.5billion

Major import trading partners: South Africa 64.1%, US 3.7%, China 3.6%, Tanzania 3.5%

Foreign direct investment (net): $ 64.4 million (2001)





The 2005 Index of Economic Freedom, The Heritage Foundation Heritage and The Wall Street Journal

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