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State structure and administrative division

Under the 1991 Constitution, amended in 1996, Zambia is a Commonwealth presidential republic headed by a president elected for five years. Since the new constitution came into force, Zambia has had a multi-party system which denies the President the right to be above the law, to declare a state of emergency and to form a cabinet from outside parliament. The president can only be re-elected once and, according to the constitution, both parents of a presidential candidate must be of Zambian descent.

The National Assembly consists of 150 members elected by universal suffrage for five years in accordance with the British model for districts; eight additional members are appointed by the President. There is also a House of Chiefs, which includes the traditional chiefs.

The main political parties are K. Kaunda's United National Independence Party, which boycotted the last disputed election in November 1996 and was the unity party between 1964 and 1991, and the current ruling party, the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD). In total, there are about 30 active political parties.

The country is divided into nine provinces: Central Province (capital: Kabwe), Copperbelt (Ndola), Eastern Province (Chipata), Luapula (Mansa), Lusaka, Northern Province (Kasama), North-Western Province (Solwezi), Southern Province (Livingstone) and Western Province (Mongu).

Zambia is a member of the United Nations and some of its sub-organisations, of the British Commonwealth of Nations, of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the GATT and an associate member of the European Union. For the current political situation, see the history section.


After independence, the Zambian government invested large sums of money in setting up schools, training courses and a university (University of Zambia), which opened in 1966. By the mid-1990s, this university had about 10,000 students. The Copperbelt University is located in the city of Kitwe. There are also several higher education institutions and a number of private schools. The latter include the Banani International Secondary School for Girls, Simba International School, Sakeji School, Makeni Ecumenical Centre and the Evelyn Hone College of Arts and Commerce.

By the mid-1970s, about one million children were receiving free primary education and about 80,000 were receiving free secondary education. Zambian children often do not start their school career until they are nine years old. In the Southern province, children are taught in Tonga for the first two years, after which they continue their education in English.

After the seventh grade, there are national exams; if they are passed, they can continue their education in a local school. The brightest students go to a secondary school, often in a big city. However, they have to bring some money with them, because this education is expensive, sometimes more than one year's income. It is clear that secondary education is only for the few. Neither the schools nor the government help the parents with the costs. In 2001, a law was passed to abolish examination fees. The schools, however, were not willing to be caught off guard and increased the parental contribution to such an extent that many children remained unable to attend secondary school.

After the oil crisis and the collapse of copper prices in 1973/1974, free education became unaffordable. As a result, the entire school system was blown up for lack of money, compounded by government mismanagement. Despite the government's efforts to revive education, only half of all children attend primary school. Many do not even finish primary school and only a quarter of primary school students go on to secondary school.

Figures from 2000 show that one third of children have no schooling at all. A major problem is overcrowded classes, often with more than 100 children in each class. In addition, teachers are severely underpaid, which results in a loss of motivation among this occupational group.


At the time of independence in 1964, health care was in poor shape in Zambia. The situation was particularly bad in the 'compounds' near the big cities and in rural areas. The minimal facilities could not prevent diseases such as malaria, sleeping sickness and tuberculosis. In fact, it was only the mission posts where people received some (medical) care.

fter independence, a lot of money was put into setting up rural clinics, district hospitals and city hospitals. Nurse training programs were also started. By the early 1970s, the situation had improved considerably, even in rural areas. Large-scale vaccination campaigns were also taking place and most facilities were free.

After the oil crisis and the collapse of copper prices in the years 1973/1974, health care became unaffordable for the Zambian government. Everything that had been built up over a decade was gone in one fell swoop. Clinics could no longer offer the simplest care and many doctors disappeared abroad.

Only under President Chiluba was a reform plan drawn up. The plans, good as they are, focus mainly on basic health care, but implementation is still very mixed. In general, it can be said that the health of the population is getting worse. Average life expectancy has continued to decline, infant mortality is rising steadily and the number of malnourished children is also increasing alarmingly. The only positive fact is that the decline is slower than it was a few years ago.

One of the biggest problems of the last decade is AIDS. Hundreds of thousands of people are HIV positive and tens of thousands of Zambians have already died of AIDS. Some 60% of hospital patients suffer from HIV/AIDS related conditions. The situation is expected to get worse. For example, it is estimated that by 2015 there will be nearly one million orphans, and 20% of the population aged 15-45 will be HIV-infected


Else, D. / Zambia
Lonely Planet

Posthumus, B. / Zambia : mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen / Novib

The Reader’s Digest

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
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