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Govt has procured modern air defence equipment – Lungu

PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu says he expects that the Zambia Air Force will endeavour to adopt modern and smart farming methods to mitigate the effects and challenges posed by climate change.

During the 2019 Zambia Air Force (ZAF) annual ball on Friday, which was held under the theme ‘building on the past and current achievements with a focus on enhancing operational efficiency and personnel welfare’, President Lungu said the military world over leads in innovation, research and development.

He said as a growing economy, Zambia requires a stable and secure environment for investments to thrive.

President Lungu said this could only be achieved by having a modern and robust defence force to safeguard investment.

“It is against this background that government has procured modern air platforms and air defence equipment. I wish to commend the air force commander for adopting a strategic direction aimed at enhancing operational efficiency and improving personnel welfare. I am happy that you have focused on enhancing efficiency in your operations by conducting various operations involving all personnel in all branches and trades to ensure efficiency and proficiency in achieving your institutional goals,” he said.

President Lungu said in terms of efficiency, the Zambia Air Force flight safety record in the past one year had been clean as no accidents had been recorded.

“During the same period, I am aware you have flown over 5,000 hours. This is indeed commendable, keep it up. The Air force has conducted numerous air force joint operations with sister services through the provision of air transport, parachute training, junior and senior command courses including, joint exercises in Ndola, and the most recent one in Mambwe with army special forces. I urge you to collaborate more in order to build a seamless force,” he said.

He said he was aware that the Zambia Air Force was in the process of deploying a ZAS aviation unit for the United Nations peace-keeping operations in Mali.

“In addition, I know that you are making all efforts to meet the United Nations criteria for deployment. I urge you to continue engaging the United Nations and benchmarking with other troop contributing countries to the successful deployment of the aviation unit. The Zambia Air Force will be deploying an aviation unit with the United Nations for the first time hence a successful deployment will not only be historic but will also contribute tremendously towards world peace. This deployment will benefit not only your personnel, but also the entire Zambia Air Force as an institution and the country at large,” he said.

President Lungu said in the quest to develop the country into a middle-income nation, he directed the defence force to diversify from its traditional roles of providing security to venturing into other economic activities to achieve sustainable national development.

“In this regard, it is gratifying to note that you have engaged in livestock and in seed production. In addition to this, you have acquired farmland in Chisamba and Mpika for agricultural purposes. The Air Force has now a footprint in all the country’s provincial centres, and in this vein, I direct you to also roll out this initiative to other parts of the country,” he said.

He said he was glad that the Zambia Air Force undertook a positive initiative to internally recruit civilian workforce with necessary entry qualifications to become non-commissioned officers with no call for additional funding from the government treasury.

President Lungu said this was in line with the austerity measures which government has put in place to ensure prudent use of public funds and resources.

He encouraged Zambia Air Force to do more with the meagre public resources at its disposal.

“You should continue to seek cost-effective measures and exercise prudent use of public resources placed under your charge. Further, I am delighted to learn that the Zambia Air Force is championing healthy living and active lifestyles in line with my desire for all Zambians to live healthy lifestyles. I implore you to continue promoting sports activities at all levels in the Zambia Air Force. I am confident that the sporting programmes in your formations will greatly reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes,” he said.

President Lungu said there was also need to continue educating personnel on the dangers of HIV/AIDS, and the importance of undergoing voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) for them to know their status and take appropriate action.

He said he was aware that, since he officially opened the ZAF hospital at Air Force headquarters in 2016, the hospital has been critical in providing quality health care to both servicemen and civilians in the catchment area.

President Lungu said the hospital had received state of the art equipment and has been complementing other larger hospitals with specialised medical analysis and care.

He said he was aware that the VIP department was at over 95 per cent completion.

“In this regard, I acknowledge the Air Power Ladies Club initiative of expanding the facility to in-patient departments. I urge you to continue engaging our cooperating partners for support in the provision of additional medical equipment. I wish to also commend the efforts by the Zambia Air force management aimed at improving the general welfare of its men and women. I am aware that significant strides have been made in liquidating outstanding personnel emoluments such as claims and other allowances,” he said.

He said in order to improve the welfare of ZAF personnel deployed in operational areas, the government has reintroduced operational allowance for them.

President Lungu said this allowance was meant to mitigate the hardships that deployed personnel endure whilst on duty away from their families.

President Lungu said the provision of uniforms, decent housing, and utility vehicles to staff wa another milestone the Air Force has recorded, and he was certain that such efforts would contribute to operational efficiency.

He said to maintain high levels of discipline in the Zambia Air Force, he encouraged them to continue with their hardline and zero tolerance stance against indiscipline, and any form of criminality amongst personnel.

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