by MARCUS MUSHONGA
HARARE, (CAJ News) – MORE than four decades of lives being lost to landmines planted by the colonial regime during the liberation war are set to be a thing of the past following assurances Zimbabwe would be able to meet an international deadline to clear the explosives by 2025.
The progress attained during the implementation of the National Mine Action Strategy (2018 – 2025) is buoyed by the tremendous support of the demining operators and their partners.
Partners including Mine Action Authority (NAMAAZ), Mine Action Centre (ZIMAC), as well as the accredited demining operators- Anti-Personnel Landmines Removal Product Development (APOPO), HALO Trust, Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and Norwegian Peoples’ Aid (NPA) believe given sufficient financial resources, the country will be able to complete clearance in the upcoming years.
“International partners are strongly encouraged to continue and increase support to clearance efforts as well as to victims’ assistance,” the partners stated.
The United States Embassy also pledged its support to ongoing landmines clearance operations.
“We are proud of our continued support to the Halo Trust whose work destroying landmines along Zimbabwe’s borders has lifted a shadow that has haunted these communities for decades,” it stated.
Since 2013, the US has provided over $10 million to support demining efforts.
Recently, the Commission of the African Union (AU), in collaboration with the United Nations Office to the AU (UNOAU), concluded an assessment of the implementation of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) in Zimbabwe.
The exercise was undertaken in the southeastern Masvingo Province at the invitation of the Ministry of Defence and War Veterans Affairs.
Among other sites visited include the Crooks Corner minefield, which lies along the border with Mozambique and South Africa, towards the Sango border post.
Operations are ongoing by the Mine Clearance Squadron of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) in the area where landmines are most severe.
The area is adjacent to the Gonarezhou National Park, which despite hosting some of the world’s abundant wildlife, is deterring tourists owing to the danger posed by explosives.
Zimbabwe’s contamination, the overwhelming majority of which is of anti-personnel mines, originates from the laying of minefields in the late 1970s.
At independence in 1980, Zimbabwe was left with seven major mined areas along its borders with Mozambique and Zambia, and one inland minefield. At the end of 2017, Zimbabwe had a total of less than 62km2 of confirmed mined area remaining.
This is a decrease from the 66km2 remaining at the end of 2016.
In June 2018, ZIMAC informed APMBC states parties that with continued progress in the first half of 2018, a total of over 60,3km2 remained to be addressed.
Minister of Defense and Veterans Affairs, Oppah Muchinguri, reaffirmed the commitment of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to meet its obligations under the APMBC, despite the economic challenges the country is grappling with.
“The government is currently pursuing robust economic revitalization. A mine-free Zimbabwe is an integral aspect of the country’s economic recovery,” she assured.
– CAJ News