The Sunday Mail
The continued existence of landmines in the country has significantly contributed to under development in affected communities as large swathes of economically valuable land has been lying idle for years, Defence Minister Dr Sydney Sekeramayi has said.
Dr Sekeramayi made the remarks during the handover ceremony of the 29-kilometre stretch of land that was cleared of anti-personnel landmines by the HALO Trust in Mukumbura.
The HALO Trust, an international organisation which specialises in demining, began work in Mukumbura in 2013 after volunteering to clear an area stretching from Musengezi to Rwenya.
So far, the Trust has cleared land measuring 860 392 square metres, destroyed 14 742 landmines with 14 377 people expected to benefit from the exercise.
The cleared land was handed over to the Ministry of Rural Development, Preservation and Promotion of Culture and Heritage by Dr Sekeramayi.
He said life and limb have been lost to landmines, particularly in areas along the Zimbabwe border with Mozambique where minefields have existed for nearly 40 years.
“The continued existence of the anti-personnel landmines has contributed to the under-development of this area as vast tracts of economically valuable land have been rendered unusable for more than four decades now,” he said.
“It is saddening to note that when the war ended in 1980, the Smith regime left the landmines still buried in the ground, posing a great danger to those residing in close proximity to the mined areas like here Mukumbura.”
Dr Sekeramayi also lamented the slow pace at which the demining process is going. He said the country is almost 10 years behind schedule.
“Under Article 5 of the Ottawa Convention Zimbabwe, like all other state parties, was obliged to complete the clearance of all mined areas in her territory within ten years of ratifying it,” he said.
“This means by March 2009, Zimbabwe was expected to have cleared all minefields within her territory.”
The Rhodesian government forces adopted the indiscriminate use of landmines in an effort to stifle inward movement and resupply of arms to the liberation war fighters in the 1970s.
As a result, Zimbabwe has approximately 2,5 million landmines and is ranked as one of the worst infested countries in the world, a situation which demonstrates how determined the Ian Smith regime was in stopping the attainment of independence by the black majority.
The event was also attended by Commander Defence Forces, General Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga and several Government officials.