by MARCUS MUSHONGA
HARARE, (CAJ News) – ZIMBABWE is to embark on a massive clearance of landmines that colonial forces laid at the borders with neighbouring countries during the liberation struggle over 40 years ago.
The company contracted for the exercise said it was buoyed by the recent resignation of veteran leader Robert Mugabe and inspired by “new beginnings” in the country ahead of the clearance.
The Ministry of Defence has contracted the Belgian non-governmental organisation, Anti-Personnel Landmines Removal Product Development (also known as APOPO), famous for training African giant rats to detect landmines and tuberculosis.
Set to boost tourism in Southern Africa, the exercise will be conducted at the Zimbabwean side of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, the largest conservation area in the world, also spanning to Mozambique and South Africa.
“Robert Mugabe’s resignation after (almost) four decades of rule now marks the beginning of a new era for Zimbabwe,” said Christophe Cox, Chief Executive Officer of APOPO.
“It is time to move forward and remove these dangerous explosives from the country. Landmines and wildlife do not mix.”
The landmines are causing a serious threat to already endangered wildlife such as elephants and lions, as well as to local communities desperately in need of the land for agriculture.
Laid along the Mozambique border by the Rhodesian army to halt movement of liberation fighters across countries, the landmines are a grim reminder of the war that killed thousands.
The minefield has one of the highest densities in the world with about 5 500 landmines per kilometre, endangering movement.
Scores of people have lost their limbs.
Clearing the landmines is also set open new economic opportunities for the region as safari operators and conservation-focused ecotourism companies.
“We are proud to be able to help Zimbabwe rid itself of these mines during an incredibly important period in the nation’s history,” Cox said.
– CAJ News