Zim minefields to take 30 years to clear

There are still plenty of landmines littered around many parts of Zimbabwe and it could take another 30 years to remove them unless the country received enough funds to carry out the demining exercise, Parliament was told on Monday.

Director of the Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre, Colonel Mkhululi Ncube, made this revelation when he appeared before the Parliament Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs led by acting chairperson, Mazowe North MP, Cairo Mhandu.

“The Rhodesian army laid minefields along the northern and eastern borders to prevent infiltration of freedom fighters from Mozambique and Zambia and three million anti-personnel mines were laid in six distinct minefields with a total area of 850km2 and some of them are above surface,” said Ncube.

“These landmines have killed over 2 000 people and more than 800 000 people have been traumatised by them.

“Although most of the minefields were clearly marked, they have been vandalised by locals, exposing them to danger,” he said.

Ncube said the worst affected area was between Mukumbura to Rwenya River which had minefields covering 335km2, followed by the area between Victoria Falls and Mbilizi, which covers 220km2, Rusitu to Musite Mission with 75km2, Sango Border Post with 53km2, Sheba Forest to Beacon Hill with 50km2 and Burma Valley with an area of 3km2 covered by landmines.

“However, there are three areas that have not yet been surveyed but are suspected to have landmines and the extent of mining is not yet known. These are Rushinga, Gwai and some parts of Sango Border Post,” Ncube said.

He said landmines had a socio-economic impact on human beings and affected the farming and tourism sectors tremendously.

“They have a social impact in that they hinder free movement of humans and animals.

“They are normally laid along borders and people who have been attempting to cross have been killed or injured,” Ncube said.

He said over 120 000 livestock have also been killed by landmines although they did not
have figures of wild animals affected.

The director of Policy, Public Relations and International Affairs in the Ministry of Defence, Patrick Machaya, said restrictive measures imposed on Zimbabwe by the West had affected funding of the demining exercise as the European Union, United Kingdom and the United States withdrew their funding early in 2000.

“According to our estimates, approximately $100 million is required for the demining exercise, but only $100 000 was provided for through the fiscus,” said Machaya.

He said demining was a humanitarian issue and politics should not affect the exercise as innocent people were affected by landmines.

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