Chiredzi — Zimbabwe has stopped a project to clear landmines planted at the border with Mozambique decades ago during the liberation war.
A lack of funds has been blamed for the development.
A difficult terrain in a 10 000 square kilometer stretch of land in the southeastern part of the country also made the clearance exercise difficult. Less than half the area had been cleared of the deadly explosives since Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980.
“We have since stopped the exercise due to financial problems and will resume once funding is made available,” said Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre director, Colonel Mkhululi Ncube in an interview on the sidelines of the recent independence celebrations.
Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre has been clearing the landmines in partnership with the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA).
“The whole project has been affected by underfunding in addition to the difficult terrain we are dealing with. The area is rocky and has tall grass and most of it is in the sanctuaries making it difficult for us to do our work,” said Ncube.
He said they cleared about 49 percent of the total area infested with landmines the colonial government planted to stop the influx of freedom fighters from neighboring countries
Traditional leaders lamented that landmines were killing people and animals as well as maiming them.
“If you move randomly you risk being blown off by landmines,” Chief Murandu Sengwe said.
“We have lost our loved ones in addition to livestock over the years. We appeal to government to clear these landmines,” Sengwe said.
Julius Mpapa, a head man, said children were at most risk.
“This problem has haunted us for years. We appeal to government to clear these landmines for the benefit of this community,” said the headman.
Chiredzi South Member of Parliament, Retired Brigadier General Callisto Gwanetsa, confirmed government lacked funds to complete the clearance.
“I have engaged everyone who matters in government about this issue and the delays in clearing the whole area of land mines has been blamed on underfunding. I will continue to push for this problem to be solved once and for all,” Gwanetsa said.
Minister of Defence and War Veterans, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, is on record saying the government will prioritise the clearing of landmines on the country’s borders.