The announcement by government to procure latest state art of military arms and other equipment is a serious misplaced priority for an administration that is having chronic food shortages, says political analyst Nason Msoni has said.
Government through the deputy defence minister Davies Mwila announced while in Brazil that government would acquire technologically advanced equipment for the three defence wings and retrain defence personnel.
Mr. Msoni said instead of prioritizing military arms government should put its interest on issues that would alleviate poverty levels in the country by heavily investing in infrastructure and rural development in order to improve the livelihood of the people.
“arming ourselves to the teeth under the circumstances is useless if we can’t provide the basic necessities to our people and is bad political judgment. No one believes that the priority of government should be to stock pile the latest arms when thousands of our people go begging for food, when thousands upon thousands of our people can’t access quality medi-care in our hospitals due to perennial shortages of drugs.
But Defence Minister Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba has said that the PF administration was not in a hurry to buy arms for its defence wings because Zambia was not at war.
Mr. Mwamba said that the procurement of weapons was not a priority of the Patriotic Front (PF) government, adding that the PF regime had put in place an agenda aimed at infrastructure development for men and women in uniforms and not weapons.
He said that statements that government would contract a loan to procure arms or weapons were misleading and unresearched as such actions were not a priority for the Patriotic Front (PF) administration.
Mr. Mwila said the government would upgrade equipment such as the radar and communication systems, transport and various other types of military equipment.
Announcing the procurement of Mr. Mwila said, “As you know, we are not alone in this world and I am sure you saw that our friends from South Africa, Angola, Namibia and Senegal plus many others from all over the world were also there. We realize that we have to move with time and we are committed to doing that,” Mr Mwila said.
He said the need to modernise the equipment was also based on Government’s intention to ensure that the defence wings “move with the times”. “As a ministry, we have taken up a programme to modernise the three services which are the Zambia Army, Zambia Air Force and Zambia National Service. We are doing this because we realized that there was urgent need to do that,” he said. Mr. Mwila also said that government had sourced US$19.5 million from China for recapitalization of Mupepetwe, an ammunition manufacturing facility located in Serenje.
Mr. Mwila said that the defunct China-Mulungushi Textiles was expected to reopen as soon as on-going discussions with the majority shareholders were concluded. He said this in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil after touring Chinese exhibitions at the just-ended ninth edition of the LAAD Defence and Security Exhibition in Brazil.
Mr. Mwamba however, said that government would procure arms if need arose from a necessity but, “for now it is not a priority. We are not buying any arms or weapons. It is not a priority. We have other things that we need to deal with which government feels urgently like to reduce the high levels of unemployment.”
But in an interview Mr. Msoni charged that it was shallow thinking for government to compare Zambia to other countries that had state of the art military arms when it had failed to provide basic necessities for the military officers. “A huge number of our children who ought be in schools are not in schools because their parents can’t afford to send them to schools , this is the area we expect the government to fill up the gap by sending these children back into schools,” he said.
Mr Msoni observed that the future of Zambia lay in the capacity of government to respond to these challenges facing the people. He said that nation was not under any immediate threat regionally or internationally to warrant a knee response from Government to procure weapons.
“The war front and enemy we need to confront and challenge with vigour and every tool at our disposal is poverty. Poverty remains our number one enemy to which we must direct our energies and resources.
“We are a Christian nation and our brother’s keeper and therefore we have to put forward the needs of our people first before looking to areas that are not an immediate priority. World trends all over including the most advanced nations are now drawing down their military and cutting down their budgets and expenses in military spending in order to concentrate on the needs and demands of domestic issues. Sadly we appear to be doing the opposite,” Msoni observed.
He charged that this idea should be a moral issue and individuals pushing for this decision should have weighed their options with the prevailing poverty levels in the nation.
He said instead of asking donors for money to procure arms, government should ask for funds to help Small scale entrepreneurs and small scale farmers as these were the engines of growth.
The concerned citizen argued that Youth empowerment remained the cornerstone of national development.