By Southern Times
The war against landmines in Zimbabwe should have been won long back. Tracts of land, most of it arable and fertile, should have long been handed over for use to the communities. But aid has been hard to come by. The struggle against these deadly war remnants continues. Thousands have lost their lives and multitudes have been crippled. In fact, every household in communities along the borders of the country, where the landmines were planted by the Rhodesian forces at the height of the liberation war in the 1970s, has at least a member killed or injured by the mines. Almost four decades on, the menace persists. Of course, some of the minefields like the one adjacent to the resort town of Victoria Falls have been cleared but others are still riddled, rendering the land virtually inhabitable. The landmine pattern has been distorted by climatic agents. The deminers have to be meticulously wary to minimise risk. Many of them have been injured in the course of their work and some even killed. But the main reason why the process is still running has been the lack of the much needed equipment for the clearance. In the early stages of this taxing demining work, in the 1980s, the government of Zimbabwe received support from the likes of UK and the United States of America in the form of both expertise and hardware. Tramendous progress was made but the country was left to do it on its own years later. Engineers from the military had to take centre stage and up to now, they are spearheading the clearance. The Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre, headed by Colonel Mkhululi Ncube, runs the qualitative and quantitative control with quiet remarkable results. Encouragingly, international organisations have joined hands with Zimbabwe to tame the menace. Hallo Trust, the Norwegian People’s Aid, APOPO, Mine Advisory Group and the International Committee of the Red Cross have all joined in the struggle. They have made it relatively easy for Zimbabwe to get rid of the landmines which have also killed both domesticated and wild animals in devastating quantities. The country has targeted to be landmine free by the year 2025. Over the years, about 209 400 landmines have been removed and detonated. Originally, the area contaminated stood at a nerve-wracking 310,650 square kilometres, according to Colonel Ncube. “Landmines are a menace which hampers development. People cannot freely move due to these war remnants. Progress has been made so far as over 209 430 landmines have been removed,” he said. The speed at which the demining process is being done has also now slowed down, thanks to the apparent lack of pattern records. Besides killing and maiming innocent people, those who live near landmine-laced places cannot move freely as they risk losing their lives or limbs. Economically, the landmines have taken toll of the inhabitants as they have done to the culture, norms and values of the societies living close to the minefields. “People cannot use the land to the maximum. Look, Zimbabweans often want to practice agriculture but with this situation they cannot. Equally people’s livestock can easily be killed in these areas yet that’s what defines wealth to most of the country’s rural folk,” said Col Ncube. The Sango Border Post to Crooks Corner minefield is nearer the Gonarezhou National Park. This is supposed to be a tourism hub benefitting South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique but due to the danger of landmines, tourists tend to shun the area.
Biography of a Bomb