FOR a long time now, the military has been restricted to safeguarding the peace of the country.
There have, however, been occasions when the military has been called upon to participate in the construction of schools, hospitals and roads.
The trend has been calling on the military to mitigate disasters by constructing bridges like the one in Sinazongwe, which was damaged by the rains last year or indeed finishing off projects abandoned by some contractors such as the 650 health posts.
Military institutions everywhere in the world during peace time, should be engaged and be involved in civil activities such as building roads and bridges. The military as such intervene whenever there is a crisis or a humanitarian upheaval.
Around 1968, the engineering squadron of the Zambia Army built a temporary bridge across the Luangwa River when colonial Portuguese soldiers blew up the Luangwa Bridge on suspicion that the bridge was being used by Mozambican freedom fighters.
The Zambia Army saved the situation and built a temporary bridge on site within a matter of days. This shows that the military is well-grounded to be involved in any type of economic activities of a country during peace times as a way of enhancing and bolstering economic and social development.
The military has also played a critical role in wiping out cholera by cleaning up the city, markets, some residential areas and burying of shallow wells.
The ordinary soldiers and engineering brigades do not only serve military barracks but are seen everywhere in infrastructure development programmes.
The Zambian military does not live or operate in isolation. It is a vital cog in the country’s social economic activities.
The military is in fact an integral part of Government system as it assures the security of the country, which is critical in any economic development.
Following Government’s resolve to diversify the economy, the military has also been engaged to be part of the process.
The Zambia Air Force, the Zambia Army and the Zambia National Service have responded affirmatively to complement the country’s economic diversification agenda.
While ZNS has already been engaged in agriculture, we have seen the military wing escalate its production of crops and animal husbandry.
The Zambia Army has since embraced farming with vigour by re-establishing its farms countrywide where it is cultivating crops, keeping animals and fish.
The air force has on its part embarked on an ambitious Public Private Partnership (PPP) project in Twin Palm area of Lusaka.
ZAF could not have responded better in defending and supporting the country’s socio-economic development than its innovative US$1.4 billion Twin Palm project under the name Kingsland city.
This is just one of the many projects ZAF is implementing to support the economic diversification drive.
That is why Minister of Finance Felix Mutati, shortly after touring the Kingsland city project on Saturday, remarked that the ZAF project is a demonstration that the answer to development and job creation is not always debt.
Mr Mutati highlighted the need to look at innovative ways of financing development, which ZAF has demonstrated.
This is an excellent initiative as it helps ease the financial pressure on Central Government, which is obliged to fund the various expenses in the military.
As Mr Mutati said, ZAF has demonstrated that there can be economic growth without incurring debt.
The military has great potential to help the country realise the economic diversification agenda and should be given the tools it needs to do so.
Other Government departments should be encouraged by this ZAF initiative to also be innovative in generating revenue, rather than always adopting the lazy attitude of expecting Central Government to fund every line of expenditure.