The Sunday Mail
War knows no boundaries, no colour and no sex. Neither does it respect any religion or political side, friend or foe can be victim.
Whilst the majority of landmines planted during the liberation struggle claimed innocent civilians, either during or after the war, Lincoln Muziwawo Sithole (67) has the unenviable distinction of having been a victim of landmines, yet he was serving for the Rhodesian army.
The victims of landmines have been many, some of them notable and some of them just citizens. Probably the most notable victim of landmines in Alfred Nikita Mangena, who died in a landmine explosion in 1978 in Zambia and was reburied at the National Heroes Acre after independence.
He recently had the National Defence College renamed in his honour. As the Rhodesian army, which had a composition of both white and blacks serving it, was mainly responsible for the planting of landmines, there would be little expectation that a member of that army, having planted landmines, would fall victim to them. Reason why Sithole’s case could be a rarity, and in a cruel twist of fate, is that Sithole receives his monthly stipend, small as it is, to help him cope with the damages of war. Some of the “more innocent” victims have gone for the past four decades without compensation.
“It was July 14, 1979,” Sithole began his narration.
“It is difficult to forget the day you lose something like a leg. We were operating in the Mukumbura area, Mt Darwin, when one of our soldiers stepped on a landmine. I was a First Aider and we went to the scene to help him.
“We put him on a stretcher and as we were carrying him to the waiting helicopter, to airlift him to the capital, I stepped on one as well.”
Sithole was to join his compatriot in being airlifted to Harare Hospital, where he was to spend up to four months bed-ridden. The leg had to be amputated.
And luckily for him, he got an artificial leg in early 1980 through the Department of Social Welfare. Ever since, he has been moving around with the help of a crutch. As a result he is unable to do most of the manual work that is expected in a rural setting.
Ever since the incident occurred, Sithole started off on a monthly stipend of $22 in 1979 and currently, he gets $67 per month, a figure which he says is not enough to help him look after his family.
But how did he, and his fellow soldier, fall foul of their own landmines? “We didn’t plant those landmines, the guerrillas did. We were told that they had attacked the water tank and when we went to inspect the damage, little did we know that they had planted landmines in and around the water tank. That is how we were maimed.”Sithole said he joined the school of engineering in the Rhodesian army in 1976 “because it was just a job like any other job during that time”.
Part of their duties entailed patrolling the Mukumbura area, which is one of the areas heavily infested with landmines in the country.