Takunda Maodza Manicaland Bureau Chief
Government on Thursday officially handed over land demined by the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) along Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique to the Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs Dr Ellen Gwaradzimba, paving way for its productive use by the community.
The land that was handed over by Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, stretches from Leacon Hill to Sheba Forest on the outskirts Mutare, a cumulative 28 kilometres of frontage covering an area of 4 016 212 square metres.
Also handed over to Minister Gwaradzimba was an area stretching from Rusitu to Muzite Mission in Chimanimani.
The Zimbabwe/Mozambican border is infested with active landmines planted by the Ian Smith regime during the liberation war to stop locals from joining the struggle.
The NPA demined the areas with funding from the United States, Norwegian and United Kingdom governments.
“It is indeed a great honour for me to preside over this important handover of demined land here in Imbeza, Mutare district, to the local authority through the Minister of State for Manicaland Province,” said Minister Muchinguri.
“This handover comes barely a week after a similar event in Rushinga where Hazardous Area Life Support Organisation (HALO) Trust is working and I am happy with the significant progress being made by our cooperating partners in releasing this formerly mined land for productive use.”
Government and its partners have given themselves a December 2025 deadline to demine all affected areas.
In July 2015, the NPA completed the clearance of the four-kilometre Burma Valley minefield and it was handed over to the Minister of State for Manicaland Province.
Minister Muchinguri said the history of land mines in Zimbabwe was traceable to the liberation war.
“An estimated three million anti-personnel mines were laid in six distinct minefields with a cumulative distance of approximately 850 kilometres,” she said.
Most of the minefields were marked and fenced, but with time these were vandalised, exposing humans to danger.
The land mines were laid mostly around the country’s borders, affecting human activity and land use.
A pull out by donors following the land reforms programme slowed the demining exercise because there was no support between 2000 and 2012.
Things changed in 2012 when Government signed a agreement with NPA and HALO Trust.
Zimbabwe inherited eight minefields from the Rhodesian regime.
These are Musengezi-Mazowe, Mazowe-Rwenya, Crooks Corner-Mwenezi, Mwenezi-Sango Border Post, Rusitu-Musite Mission, Sheba Forest-Leacon Hill, Victoria Falls-Mlibizi and Mukumbura-Koch Mine.
Commander Zimbabwe Defence Forces General Valerio Sibanda was among guests at the handover ceremony.