Zim struggling to clear landmines 35 years after independence
Zimbabwe is still struggling to clear more than 40 000 hectares of communal and commercial land infested with landmines, more than 35 years after they were planted during the war of liberation, NewsDay has learnt.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Corps of Engineers Mkhululi Ncube told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs on Tuesday that about 5% of the mined area had potentially rich mineral resources.
The committee is currently touring areas infested with landmines such as Sengwe, Vhumba and Forbes Border Post in Mutare.
“Zimbabwe is State party to the Anti-Personnel Land Mine Ban Treaty which came into effect in 1999, which means we were supposed to have cleared all mines 10 years ago in 2009,” Ncube said.
“We have always asked for extension. Currently, we are on the third extension and we are working on the fourth extension where we are supposed to have resurveyed the mine areas that are contaminated and come up with a plan of how we intend to tackle the problem.” Ncube said initially landmines in Zimbabwe covered 310,65 square kilometres which translated to 850km.
He said 220km had been cleared from Victoria Falls to Mlibizi, while 130km were cleared from Mukumbura to Rwenya Koch Mine. An estimated 50km from Sheba Forest and Beacon Hill and 4,1km in Burma Valley were also cleared as so where 75km from Rusitu to Muzite Mission.
Although the ZNA has worked around the clock to ensure people avoided landmine-infested areas, animals were still endangered.
“Since 2012 our records show that 18 people were killed by landmines and explosive remnants of war while 14 incurred injuries. It is unfortunate that most of the incidents have been attributed to the speculation that red mercury is found in mines. Such beliefs are not true as there is no red mercury in mines, it is just a myth,” Ncube said.
He said uncleared landmines had severe impact on the lives of peasant farmers’ economic activities.
“There is land pressure on the areas adjacent to the minefields, and it is evident in areas like Mukumbura where cotton farming is prohibited due to the problem of landmines.
“Loss of livestock adds to the woes of the ordinary rural peasant, as well as lack to access to water and grazing land caused by minefields,” Ncube said.
He said landmines also negatively impacted on tourism as an estimated 5 000 hectares of land ideal for game in parts of Gonarezhou National Park was infested with landmines. This made tourism development impossible in a huge area of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
The cash-strapped government has allocated a paltry $500 000 towards landmines clearance resulting in the National Mine Action Authority of Zimbabwe relying on donor support. Ncube said in the absence of resources, it would take Zimbabwe 30 years to eliminate landmines, against a 2025 deadline for the complete elimination of mines.