The paper addresses the methodological problems concerning how to assess the political role of courts in Zambia - and in new democracies more generally, and suggests a framework within which this can be done. Particular focus is on the accountability function vis-à-vis political authorities. We also raise the issue of the role courts play (positively or negatively) in processes of social integration of marginalised groups. And we ask how we can get a better understanding of the conditions under which courts generate legitimacy for their role and avoid undue politicisation