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On Labour Law in Zambia

How an area so crucial to the ecomomic and social existence of any society like Labour and Employment Law be totally ignored by legal scholars and trade unionists in their scholarly discourse, especially in Zambia , boggles the mind! So when Chanda Chungu and Dr. Ernest Beele decided to do something beneficial to Zambia by filling- in the missing lacuna in Labour and Employment Law by publishing in 2018, a 92 page monogram entitled, “Labour Law in Zambia: an Introduction” (Capetown, Juta), they could hardly know the pain they were about to inflict on themselves.

I have already written about the pain and agony of Lawyer and Scholar Reagan Blankfein Gates who wrote a book on Company Law in 2016 only to be confronted with tsunamic overhaul in Company Law legislation the very next year, 2017 with a new Company Law Act along with a new Insolvency Act. Gates was equal to the task and went ahead to rewrite the book incorporating the new legislation and reserved extra energy to write a totally new book on the Insolvency Act. I respect scholars.

Karl Marx was a perfectionist in research and writing always waiting for new information and legislation which paralysed hin to the extent that most of his works only saw the light of the day after his death. He still enjoyed the accolades while he was alive but they could have been greater had his books been published in his life time. He was luck to have a scholarly comrade in the name of Frederick Engels who completed Marx’ s works. Do you have a comrade like that. Most scholars die leaving excellent unfinished manuscripts. The lesson for scholars is: write and publish when you can and when you are still alive. Do not over-research and do not constantly be waiting for new legislation before penning that book. Even the book overtaken by new case law or legislation is still of scholarly and historical value. But you must be ready and willing to revise your text should it be precipitously overtaken by sudden new developments. Don’t be paralysed from publishing.

Chanda Chungu and Dr. Ernest Beele suffered the same agony and pain as Mr. Gates. But they did not get paralysed like Karl Marx. Labour Law legislation had substantially remained the same for decades until shortly after Chungu and Beele wrote the book mentioned above in 2018. The book received a lot of attention in academia and elsewhere. But hardly had it been sitting on people’s desks and libraries than a new comprehensive piece of labour legislation enacted in 2019 come which almost completely made this 92 page publication of 2018 obsolete. In fact the book could be said to be dead on arrival.

The authors scratched their heads and asked, what to do now? Like Gates, they decided to spring into inspired action. Publish or perish.

This is a commentary on the new book by Chanda Chungu and Dr. Ernest Beele entitled, “Labour Law in Zambia: An Introduction” (Capetown: Juta Press, 2020, 2nd Edition). They immediately revised their book. And Zambia is the richer for it. From a slim 92-page book they stretched it to a 448-page mega book of analysis and commentary, updating and expanding information and case law and adding new pieces involving industrial relations and labour unions. It is the first major work in Zambia’ s 56 years of independence. Had there been no overhaul in Labour legislation, there would have been no major work on the subject to date. Legislation became motivation. Legislate to motivate should be the slogan though it should always be: motivate to legislate by publications.

The book follows more or less the same chapter headings as the shorter version but with an additional Appendix comprising of the new Employment Code Act No. 3 of 2019 and related legislation.

The chapters are as follows: chapter 1, “History and Sources of Employment Law in Zambia”; 2.”The Employment Contract”; 3 “Common Law Duties of Employees and Employers”; 4. “Basic Conditions of Employment”; 5, “Employee’s Conduct and Discipline”; 6.”Workplace Discrimination” 7.” Occupational Health and Safety”; 8.”Industrial Relations and Collective Labour Law”; 9. “Social Security” and 10.”Dispute Resolution”.

My mantra is: “A good lawyer knows the law and a great lawyer knows the Judge”. This book lives up to this mantra. It is all you need on the subject matter in Zambia.

Thus, in terms of Labour Law in Zambia, scholars, students, lawyers, judges, parliamentarians, trade unions and employers need not consult any other work except case law after being in possession of this book. It is the best and only one with which to begin research and preparation for classes, court cases, union negotiations, dispute resolution, International conferencing and related discourses.

Historians and political scientists and politicians will have to look elsewhere for extended histories of the Labour movement and industrial relations in Zambia from historical colonial times to the present.

Chanda Chungu and Dr. Ernest Beele are both academic scholars based at the University of Zambia School of Law and are also advocates of the High Court of Zambia. They are thus practitioners of what they have written which makes the book more suitable to be labelled as a Guide to practice in the matter of labour, employment and industrial relations. The publication of this book was facilitated by the Dean of Zambian Labour, Employment and Industrial Relations Law, Professor Evance Kalula of the University of Cape Town whose foreword graces the book. Professor Kalula may have been the first to write a seminal PhD Thesis on this topic. Sadly that magnificent Thesis has never been published and I stare at it from time to time in my library. I consulted it extensively for my book, “Class Struggles in Zambia, 1889-1989 & The Fall of Kenneth Kaunda, 1990-1991” (Latham: University Press of America, 1992) in which I put Zambia’s working class as having been at the centre of industrial action to ventilate for democratic change during the colonial and one party state periods of Zambia’s history.

Professor Kalula has taken it upon himself to promote Zambian authors through his association with Juta. He has published the works of Professor Kenneth Mwenda, Dr. Patrick Sangwani, Mr. Joseph Chirwa and others. “Labour Law in Zambia: an Introduction” by Chungu and Dr. Beele is his most ambitious and biggest production. Scholars like movie actors dream of scoring a mega hit in their life time. If Chungu and Beele don’t individually or together produce another publication, this major hit is sufficient production.

Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches legal research and writing, among other subjects. His Module on Labour Law is in use at Zambian Open University School of Law, updating the Module on the same subject written by Dr. Beele in the early 2000s. Scholars build on each other.

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