JIMMY CHIBUYE, Lusaka
MINISTER of Defence Edgar Lungu says the view that military hospitals are a preserve of army personnel should be discouraged because the institutions are built to provide healthcare to all citizens.
Mr Lungu, who is also Minister of Justice, said there is need for military health facilities to integrate with the programmes of the Ministry of Health to promote provision of quality healthcare to Zambians.
He said this after visiting and presenting New Year gifts to patients at Lusakaâ€™s Maina Soko Military Hospital yesterday.
â€œIn fact, our late President Michael Sata made it very clear that we should expand the provision of healthcare from the military cantonments to the citizenry at large. We should not begin to say that this is for the Zambia Army, Zambia Air Force or Zambia National Service.
â€œThis perception that some hospitals are only for the army and others for civilians should be brought to an end because we are essentially serving Zambians,â€ Mr Lungu said.
He said the army should be able to provide health services and facilities to communities in which they have the institutions.
Mr Lungu said Government will next year embark on a programme which will result in the Ministry of Health working closely with military hospitals.
He said the budgetary allocations for military health institutions are also low and hinder the institutions from catering for non-military personnel.
Mr Lungu also appealed to the business community to help the military hospitals expand their provision of healthcare services to non-military personnel.
And government says military personnel should not carry out orders from politicians because the army exists to defend the interests of Zambians and uphold the Constitution.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Harry Kalaba said at the Zambia Army annual ball on Wednesday night that the military does not exist to protect the interests of few individuals and a narrow clique but the majority Zambians.
â€œYou must realise that you belong to a band of the selected few who the nation has called upon to protect and defend the Constitution of Zambia and the integrity of the nation. This is a privilege which must always be taken seriously and never abused,â€ Mr Kalaba said.
He said Zambians are happy with the manner the army is handling the transition period and urged officers to refrain from engaging in partisan politics as the country goes to the presidential poll on January 20.
Mr Kalaba commended the army for exhibiting exemplary discipline, maintaining peace and order, and unflinching commitment and unquestionable loyalty to the government.
He said a disloyal and undisciplined military is a menace to the state but the Zambia Army is one of the few disciplined armies in Africa and a source of pride for the Zambians.
Mr Kalaba said Government will continue to support the military and, as a matter of urgency, construction of the second phase housing units in other bases facing accommodation challenges will start soon.
And Army Commander Paul Mihova appealed to Government to consider increasing funding to the army for administration, operations and training.
Lieutenant General Mihova said a defence force which is not well funded or administered can be a source of instability in a country.
He further appealed to Government to improve infrastructure in most military bases because most buildings are in poor state.
Gen Mihova also said that most military land has been invaded by local people and Government should assist in resolving the encroachment problem by engaging traditional leaders.
He also thanked government for establishing the marine unit which has been created to secure lives of Zambians living along the water bodies.
Gen Mihova said the military has received most of the equipment required for the marine units and the army is now waiting for the official launch.
JIMMY CHIBUYE, Lusaka