Evolution of ZNS: Mass movement to productive force

TEMBO Benedict.

THE Zambia National Service (ZNS) has evolved over the years from a mass movement advocating the defence of the country’s independence to being a symbol of economic empowerment.
After the attainment of independence in 1964, Government decided to harness this group of youths that was involved in agitating for Zambia’s independence by providing them with skills.
This led to the formation of the Zambia Youth Service, whose most pronounced role was to provide life-sustaining skills to the youths.
However, Zambia was also surrounded by countries which were still under the yoke of colonialism, thereby posing a danger to the sovereignty of the country.
The Zambia Youth Service was therefore abolished and a more militant ZNS was born on December 20, 1971 through an Act of Parliament.
The ZNS Act mandates ZNS to train citizens to serve the nation and employ its members in tasks of national importance which include service and defence of the country.
Over time, the roles have increased to include, among others, production (agricultural, livestock and industrial production and land development
Land development
Land development is a service that ZNS has been offering since 1989. Under this branch, ZNS undertakes construction of feeder roads, airstrips, dams and crossing points. It responds to disasters under the auspices of the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU).
Some works undertaken include the construction and rehabilitation of more than 86 kilometres of feeder roads in Eastern Province.It has also constructed the Shangombo-Sitoti road in Western Province and rehabilitated the Zambezi – Chavuma road in North-Western Province.
ZNS recently constructed the Lundazi airstrip to add to those constructed earlier like the Siavonga and Serenje airstrips.
ZNS has also constructed the Zambeef dam in Chisamba and some dams servicing Mkushi Farm Block.
All services are available to individuals, small and commercial farmers, corporate bodies and government institutions at government prescribed rates.
In order to enhance ZNS operations, government occasionally provides support.
In 2015, Government procured a brand new fleet of assorted heavy-duty earth-moving equipment for ZNS.
The equipment was equitably distributed to all the 10 provinces where it is deployed in various national projects.
After being appointed Zambia’s Local Roads Authority in September 2015, ZNS was in the same year mandated to construct 10,000 kilometres of primary feeder roads over a period of four years. The appointment saw the transfer of Rural Roads Unit (RRU) from the Ministry of Works and Supply to ZNS under the Ministry of Defence.
Disaster management
ZNS collaborates with the DMMU under the Office of the Vice-President to reverse effects and, in some instances, prevent the occurrence of disasters altogether. Works have ranged from construction or reconstruction of washed-away bridges/ crossing points or road depressions to unblocking of drainages.
ZNS was in the recent past engaged to construct the BH Market at Lusaka’s Soweto Market and Kaunda Square Market. The two markets have since been handed over to Government.
ZNS has also been involved in maize haulage to supply hunger-stricken communities.
It also hauls maize on behalf of the Food Reserve Agency (FRA).
Agriculture and livestock
ZNS is engaged in both rain-fed and irrigated crop production and rearing of beef/dairy cattle and poultry. The crops grown include maize, wheat, soya beans and vegetables. ZNS rears both broilers and layers.
Small-scale industries
ZNS runs specialised small scale industries, which include furniture, machine, shoe, tailoring and knitting and milling factories.
Milling plants
In order to address the high cost of mealie meal, Government has allocated six industrial milling plants to be set up in Kasama, Mpika, Solwezi, Choma, Kaoma and Chipata.
Feasibility studies have since been undertaken and works on at least two sites are scheduled to commence soon.
Youth skills training
ZNS, in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development, has since 2005 been training underprivileged youths in life-sustaining skills such as general agriculture, tailoring, catering, bricklaying, plastering, mechanics, carpentry and joinery.
Other skills imparted are plumbing, shoe making, music, entrepreneurship and training in cultural tenets of Zambia.
The skills training programmes are offered at two ZNS youth skills training centres in Kitwe and Katete. A third training centre at Chishimba in Kasama is ready to receive its first intake.
Culture and sport
Green Labels Band, aka Kawale, is the face of ZNS’s musical activities. The Kawale band, which specialises in music sensitising the nation on various social ills while at the same time sharing a variety of rich cultural endowments the nation is blessed with, has been in existence for over 20 years.
The band also endeavours to use the various platforms to promotion national unity.
Besides Green Labels, ZNS has another band at its Kafue Training School called Eagle Sounds which is currently working on releasing its first album.
Makeni Garrison in Lusaka houses the Steel Band.
ZNS also promotes culture by maintaining a cultural troupe and a theatre club which put up performances in military units, civil communities and international fora, enlightening the public on various social and health issues.
ZNS also sponsors sports disciplines designed to keep the men and women in uniform fit as well as providing entertainment to the surrounding communities.
The sportsmen and women have also represented the nation at regional, continental and global competitions, minting a number of medals.
Currently, Green Eagles Football Club, the Choma-based outfit which finished a record fourth in the MTN Super Division, is representing the country in the African Confederation Cup.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.

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