14 December 2016

Zimbabwe: Landmines Claim 1 550

Photo: thinkafricapress
Rats are used to detect landmines (file photo).

Landmines that were planted by the Rhodesian Army during the liberation struggle along the country's northern and eastern borders, have to date killed more than 1 500 people and injured 2 000 others, Government said yesterday. Ministry of Defence acting secretary Mr Denson Muvandi, said an estimated three million anti-personnel mines were laid in six distinct minefields with a cumulative distance of approximately 850km.

He was speaking at the official opening of the Zimbabwe National Mine Action strategic planning workshop, which is being held in Harare.

"Although most of these minefields were clearly marked, the markings have since been vandalised by locals thereby leaving them totally exposed and vulnerable to the danger of being hit by the mines.

"Statistics gathered so far indicate that to date landmines have killed in excess of 1 550 people and injured or maimed another estimated 2 000 people, several livestock and game," Mr Muvandi said.

He said the history of landmines in Zimbabwe could be traced back to the war of liberation that culminated in the attainment of independence in 1980.

"At the peak of the liberation struggle from 1976 to 1979, the Rhodesian Army laid landmines in fields along the country's northern and eastern borders with the aim of inhibiting the infiltration of freedom fighters into the country from Mozambique and Zambia respectively," he said.

Mr Muvandi said most landmines were laid along the borders with a few being laid further inland, as such people who lived close to these areas were greatly affected by the mines as they did not enjoy free movement and many other social activities.

He said their socialisation and communication with relatives across the mined areas was greatly affected while access to the productive land was also hindered.

He said the need to clear the mined areas became apparent soon after the cessation of hostilities between the then Rhodesian Government and Liberation Movements of ZANLA and ZIPRA.

"In 1980, the Government of Zimbabwe started clearing the mined areas in order to safeguard life and limb, pave way for resettlement as well as to release some mined areas for productive use.

"Assistance was then sought from the international community to fund national mine clearance operations for the reclamation of land," Mr Muvandi said.

He said by 1997 about 10 percent of the mined areas had been cleared and the Government continued to appeal for international assistance and cooperation following its ratification of the Ottawa Convention on the Prohibition of Production, Stockpiling, Transfer and Use of Anti-Personnel Landmines.

He said in 1998, the US Government responded by donating a host of demining equipment and tools as well as training the Army Engineers to carry out humanitarian demining.

Between 1999 and 2000, the European Union also funded clearance by commercial deminers of the 335km Musengezi to Rwenya River minefield, he said.

Mr Muvandi said: "Unfortunately, both US and EU support was short-lived as it withdrew in 2000, leaving the Government of Zimbabwe to go it alone until the completion of the 220km Victoria Falls to Mlimbizi minefield in 2005."

He, however, said the aim of the workshop was to review and reformulate the country's national mine action strategic plan to cover the period 2017 up until the conclusion of all mine clearance work.

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