Zimbabwe: Daily Blasts Bring Ray of Hope to Shell-Shocked Villagers

13 August 2020

The ear piercing blasts that echo through 15km of the thick forest which were last heard in December 2019 resurfaced at the beginning of June 2020. To locals, the blasts bring hope for a community that is landmine infested. To them those blasts raise hope for a landmine free community.

Villagers surrounding the National Mine Clearance Squadron's current location at Mafunjwa Base in Chiredzi South have regularly lost livestock, limbs and life due to the lethal remnants of the war planted by Rhodesian security forces during the liberation struggle.

On June 8 2020, the National Mine Clearance Squadron resumed operations at Mafunjwa Base after a five-month break following the onset of the rainy season. The resumption of operations was met with a lot of excitement from the villagers.

"I have been waiting to hear this sound. With this global Covid-19 pandemic devastating the world, I thought this year we were never going to hear the sound of landmines being detonated. These blasts give us hope as people living in proximity to the minefield. It gives us assurance that progress is being made to get rid of the menace once and for all," says Mr Richard Nyoni, a local community leader.

The Officer Commanding National Mine Clearance Squadron, Major Trust Chinhongo explained the two types of blasts that are characteristic of mine infested areas.

"Demining is equally a war, lives can be lost. There are two types of blasts and each of them carries its own feelings to a deminer. A blast as a result of an unplanned detonation which demoralises the deminers and this daily blast which comes as result of cleared mines being destroyed deliberately.

"To me the latter is a source of strength as it assures everyone that we are achieving our goal of saving lives by clearing and eventually destroying the land mines," he said.

One of the deminers, Corporal Mandizvidza Kudakwashe who has been with the squadron since 2018 and is now in charge as the Survey Troop Team Leader, expressed gratitude over the humanitarian work the soldiers were undertaking.

"This is my third and probably final year here. As we destroy the mines I count down the time and add to the days I have spent in operations as a deminer," he said.

Land mines were planted by the Rhodesian forces during the liberation struggle as an unorthodox way of restricting the movement of the liberation war fighters who had established their bases in countries bordering Zimbabwe.

As a result, many lives were lost due to the landmines. Today, the landmines continue to pose danger to people and animals, hence the military effort to rid the country of the threat.

The National Mine Clearance Squadron has thus far, cleared more than 43km out of a total of 53km double stretch minefield which runs from Crooks Corner to Sango Border Post.

The Zimbabwe National Army National Mine Clearance Squadron under ZNA Engineers Corps was deployed on demining operations on the Victoria Falls to Mlibizi Minefield in 1998 where it managed to clear a 235km minefield stretch before the land was handed over to the Government in 2005.

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