KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka
THE challenges that the men and women in uniform face are well known; accommodation and transport.
Former Pemba member of Parliament (MP) David Matongo, when debating the estimates of expenditure for the Ministry of Home Affairs in Parliament in 1998, gave one typical case.
Whether it is a fair reflection or not, is a discussion for another day.
But he was point-on.
â€œAs for Pemba, the police camp has become a hive of disease and uncertainty. Police officers live in squalor. It is unfortunate because people from Pemba are usually very smart,â€ he told Parliament as the MPs laughed.
â€œI would like to appeal to the minister to improve the standard of the camp. It should be like the people of Pemba. I would like to state very clearly that the men and women in uniform and the public servants in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Defence and other ministries are living in insalubrious accommodation.
â€œWe need to look at these issues of accommodation for the police officers, immigration personnel and other public servants. It is as if the gods were angry with my brother, the honourable Minister of Home Affairs [Ronnie Shikapwasha].
â€œDespite his many and hard prayers, the rain did not only cause havoc in the rural parts of the Southern Province, but also in Lusaka, particularly in the police camps in Kanyama area. We think that serious attention should be paid to clean up cantonment camps. It was so difficult to mobilise people to help those who were affected by the floods because those who were supposed to help were also affected.â€
Of course, this was seven years ago, and obviously, a number of interventions have been undertaken that have helped address some of the challenges that the men and women in uniform face.
The challenges still remain.
But Mr Matongo should be happy that there is a project to construct 2,350 housing units at a cost of US$320 million for officers in the Ministry of Home Affairs.
About 1,454 houses will be for the Zambia Police Service; 677 for the Zambia Prisons Service; 117 for the Immigration Department; and 102 for the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC).
These houses will be built in Kabwe, Itezhi-Tezhi, Chirundu, Matumbo, Luano, Mpika, Mufulira, Kitwe, Kafue and Chingola.
The ground-breaking ceremony for the project took place last Tuesday at Chelston Police Camp in Lusaka.
President Lungu officiated at the ceremony.
For the President, the ceremony was a manifestation of his governmentâ€™s determined effort at resolving one of the many challenges that the men and women in security services have faced for a long time.
However, the President is also aware that decent housing is not only a challenge for the security services, but the country as a whole.
According to reports, Zambiaâ€™s housing deficit will reach an alarming three million with a population of 23 million by 2030.
Obviously, that will not be a Smart Zambia.
The Ministry of Home Affairs itself has a housing deficit of 12,000.
To address the housing deficit, the country needs to build a minimum of 150,000 housing units per year by 2030. The deficit stands at 1.3 million in urban locations and 1.5 million in rural areas.
But there is a will to address the challenge. In fact, Government has increased funding towards housing, water and sanitation in the national budget from 0.7 percent in 2014 to 1.7 percent in 2015.
â€œMy government is determined to resolve this challenge. Housing is a decent human need, hence plays a significant role in the welfare of families. This is why my government is resolute to ensuring that all our people have access to decent housing,â€ President Lungu said at the ground-breaking ceremony.
The housing crisis in Zambia stems from the failure to implement the 1996 award-winning national housing policy, whose main goal was to provide adequate affordable housing for all income groups. This policy was a culmination of nationwide consultations through provincial workshops leading to the national one in March 1995.
The participatory process in the formulation of the policy saw it being awarded a â€˜Scroll of Honourâ€™ by the UN-Habitat, the United Nations agency for human settlements and sustainable urban development. It gives the Scroll of Honour in recognition of work carried out in the field of human settlements, particularly in improving the living conditions in urban centres.
Anyhow, Zambiaâ€™s national housing provided a comprehensive assessment of the housing situation and a vision for the development of adequate affordable housing for all income groups in the country. The implementation of the national housing policy should have been the beginning of Zambiaâ€™s march with the rest of the world towards â€˜shelter for allâ€™ by the year 2010.
The full implementation of the policy would have helped turn the economy around by jump-starting the construction industry and creating employment. It would have also helped alleviate the shelter affordability problems of the poor and cleared the housing backlog and deficit.
Unfortunately, only parts of the policy have been implemented.
But President Lungu is determined to address the situation, with the Ministry of Home Affairs being one of the targets.
â€œAlthough the programme for the Ministry [of Home Affairs] has lagged behind those of other security wings, I am glad that it is finally being actualised,â€ President Lungu said.
â€œFor the doubting â€˜Thomasesâ€™, I wish to re-sound my governmentâ€™s resolve to addressing the long-standing challenges faced by our institutions and delivering on the PFâ€™s promise of providing decent housing for our men and women in uniform.â€
For the President, it is important to invest in the security institutions.
â€œA Smart Zambia requires well-trained and equipped security institutions.â€
KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka