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Zambia: Denial of driving licenses to deaf people

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On 2 November 2021, the Supreme Court of Zambia heard the appeal in the case of Frankson Musukwa and Others v Road Transport and Safety Agency, an appeal against the dismissal by the High Court of a constitutional challenge to the denial of driving licences to deaf people in Zambia.


On 15 November 2019, the petitioners filed an application in the High Court of Zambia challenging the constitutionality of the application of section 62 as read with sections 59 and 68 of the Road Traffic Safety Act No.11 of 2002 for denying deaf people driving licences. They argued that the sections violated their rights to equality and freedom from discrimination, freedom of movement and privacy as enshrined in the Constitution of Zambia. The application of the law was also not in line with the Persons with Disabilities Act No. 6 of 2012 which provides for the enjoyment of rights for persons with disabilities on the same basis as others, including the right to non-discrimination based on disability, and equal participation in all aspects of life. In addition, the application of the law was not in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), to which Zambia is a State Party, and international best practice. Deaf people are routinely issued with driving licenses and are allowed and able to drive in other countries within the SADC region such as South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

 The High Court dismissed the application, finding that the application of the law was not a violation of the petitioners’ right to movement and that the application of the Act, though discriminatory, was justified “to protect”. This, despite the Court acknowledging that the law was not in line with international human rights instruments like the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) and that there was expert evidence to show that deaf drivers do not constitute a safety risk for road traffic users.

Judgement in the Supreme Court is still pending.

The Appellants are represented by Gilbert Phiri of PNP Advocates and supported by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.

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