Landmines in Zimbabwe

Battle To Clear Landmines In Zimbabwe After 35 Years Of Independence

Thirty-five years after achieving independence, landmines in Zimbabwe are proving to be a huge problem. They are left over from the Rhodesian Bush War, which ran from 1964 to 1979.

The war was known as the Rhodesian Bush War by the Rhodesian government under Prime Minister Ian Smith, but also known as the Zimbabwe War of Liberation by the opposition Zimbabwe African National Union under the now-president of the country, Robert Mugabe.

Mainly fought in the bush regions of the country, landmines in Zimbabwe were placed by Mugabe’s forces. Many of these landmines are still in existence today, endangering wildlife, farm animals, and people living in the rural areas.

While a fair amount of land has already been cleared, according to Newsday, officials still have to clear over 40,000 hectares of communal and commercial land of landmines in Zimbabwe, 35 years after independence.

Reportedly, around five percent of the land affected has potentially rich mineral resources, much needed by the country, and the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) Corps are currently investigating areas such as Sengwe, Vhumba, and the Forces Border Post in Mutare, looking for the landmines.

According to Zimbabwe Situation, the country is party to the Anti-Personnel Landmine Ban Treaty, which came into effect in 1999 and all mines should have been cleared within 10 years, by 2009. However, ZNA Commander Mkhululi Ncube told the media that they have asked for a further 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 did say that 220km of land from Victoria Falls to Mlibizi had been cleared of landmines in Zimbabwe, along with several other areas, but there is still so much land to be cleared.

Their records show that since 2012, 18 people have been killed by landmines and other explosive remnants of the war, and another 14 have been injured. Ncube stressed that uncleared landmines also have a bad impact of the lives of peasant farmers’ in the affected areas.

“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.”

He added that there is also a negative impact on tourism, as around 5,000 hectares of land in parts of the Gonarezhou National Park are infested with the landmines, making them inaccessible to tourists.

With the Zimbabwe government short of funds, only a mere $500,000 has been allocated towards the clearance of the landmines in Zimbabwe, leaving officials reliant on donor support from other countries.

According to Ncube, without resources, it will take the country another 30 years to eliminate all the landmines in Zimbabwe, despite the final deadline for the total elimination of mines of 2025.

Possibly the country could use some of South Africa’s elephants who are currently being trained to sniff out biological weapons, as reported on the Inquisitr recently.

[Image: Gonarezhou National Park CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Andrew Ashton]