Zimbabwe: 1 500 People, 120 000 Livestock Killed By Landmines Since 1980

Mutare — Over 1 500 people have been killed or maimed by landmines while more than 120 000 livestock have also perished since independence in 1980.

As a result, a local Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) organisation has urged the government to compile a database of people injured by explosives during the liberation war in communities along Zimbabwe's border with Mozambique so that the victims are assisted by the state.

Chipinge has been pointed out by the Quadriplegics and Paraplegics Association of Zimbabwe (QUAPAZ), as one of the districts in the country with a high number of PWDs, who are victims of landmines and other explosive remnants of war in post-independence Zimbabwe.

Some were also injured after independence as the landmines planted by the Rhodesian forces were left exposed. Also affected was the local communities livestock.

During Zimbabwe's liberation war in the 1970s, the Rhodesian army laid massive minefields in order to prevent freedom fighters from leaving or entering the country to wage the liberation war.

The Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre (ZIMAC) says the government of Zimbabwe with assistance from partners managed to reduce landmine contamination to just over forty square kilometres by the end of 2019 in Chipinge district.

According to United States Embassy in Harare, support for humanitarian demining in Zimbabwe has destroyed more than 42 600 landmines and also restored thousands of square kilometers of land to productive use.

QUAPAZ chairperson, Bernard Madzivire told NewZimbabwe.com in an interview that communities along the Zimbabwe/Mozambique border have the highest numbers of PWDs that are undocumented.

"Through engagement with communities in Chipinge districts, we realised that due to landmines, there are many PWDs along the border and they are being left out in humanitarian assistance and response during disasters," he said.

"Coincidentally, we have very high cultural practices that undermine the rights of PWDs in these communities which are along the border. PWD's organizations must play a pivotal role in monitoring areas with cultural practices that infringe on their rights.

"There is a need to raise awareness in these areas so that PWDs are aware of their rights and are confident to speak out when their rights are undermined. The government must make sure there is enforcement of law so that society will start to recognise the rights of persons with disabilities," said the QUAPAZ team leader.

Madzivire urged the government to compile a database of persons who became disabled as a result of explosive remnants of war in communities along the Zimbabwe/Mozambique border, noting it will be useful in fostering inclusion of PWDs in humanitarian assistance and responses.

"These communities along the border are vulnerable to natural disasters yet there are many people with disabilities who are not documented. Up to now, we do not have a government-led database of PWDs, whilst the available ones are project-driven by non-governmental organisations.

"The government must then involve PWDs in the compilation of such a database. There is a need for coordinated deliberate efforts to involve PWDs in the establishment of their own database.

"There will be suspicion if persons without disabilities are not involved in the compilation of such a database. They will think you are going to use their names to look for money and grants.

"We want government agencies to encourage partners to include disabled persons in their programmes and humanitarian responses," Madzivire added.

However, he commended the government for the inclusion of PWDs lately noting there was more room for improvement.

"The government is trying to cater for PWDs as I am a member of Mutare District Civil Protection Unit. There have been some positive developments like the setting up of a disability policy.

"Having a sound framework on disability shows an appreciation of PWDs. PWDs must be incorporated in all other committees within their communities so that they are not left out in development initiatives," said Madzivire.

Contacted for comment, the Manicaland provincial development coordinator (PDC), Edgars Seenza told NewZimbabwe.com he will need to check with Chipinge district development coordinator of how many PWDs as a result of explosive remnants of war.

"I will check with DDC as well as the Department of Social Welfare to determine the number of people affected by landmines in communities along the border. Regardless of the number of landmines victims, we are interested in assisting them.

"I am aware that government was involved in demining initiatives and many places were demined. During Cyclone Idai, we included PWDs from Mutare, Buhera, Chimanimani, and Chipinge in humanitarian assistance. I am in Bulawayo right now and if I was in the office, I could have given you the figures of how many PWDs were affected by cyclones and received assistance," said Manicaland PDC.

In a telephone interview with NewZimbabwe.com, Chipinge District Development Coordinator (DDC), William Mashava confirmed that there are many PWDs along the border with Mozambique due to injuries caused by landmines during the liberation war.

"Generally along the border with Mozambique we have a lot of PWDs due to landmines injuries.

"But many injuries occurred during the war, afterward there were very few incidents. White soldiers had planted a lot of explosives so as to deter freedom fighters from entering the country from Mozambique.

"As we speak right now Zimbabwe National Army with help from partners is in the process of clearing landmines in communities along the border with Mozambique," said Mashava.

He denied that PWDs were left out in Humanitarian assistance and responses after Cyclone Idai had struck.

Mashava noted that the Department of Social Welfare and Jairos Jiri could have the actual numbers of PWDs who were affected by Cyclone Idai in Chipinge and other areas.

"We helped everyone and no PWDs were left out. I do not have an exact number of PWDs that were affected and helped but there were even organisations that were specifically targeting them.

"No one was left out, it's just that when disasters occur some organizations end up exaggerating facts in order to seek relevance," said Mashava.

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