via 180 000 square metres cleared of landmines | The Herald June 1, 2015 by Andrew Chimedza
An international de-mining organisation, Halo Trust, has completed clearing anti-personnel mines on an over 180 000-square-metre area in Mukumbura district in Mashonaland Central province, bringing relief to local communities who faced the risk of being killed or maimed by landmines planted by Rhodesian forces during the country’s 1970s liberation war.
Speaking at an event to mark the completion of the first phase of a $1,7 million de-mining programme funded by the Japanese government, Halo Trust programmes manager Mr Tom Dibb said his organisation of 153 workers had cleared 6 000 anti-personnel mines in Gomo village in Mukumbura district on the border with Mozambique.
“It’s a huge problem and more manpower is needed to clear landmines,” he said. “It’s hazardous, tiresome and complex. We need to train more locals to clear landmines to enable people to access water and grazing land.”
Mr Dibb, who managed mine clearance programmes in Chechnya, Afghanistan and in Southeast Asia, said more resources were needed for landmine clearing in Zimbabwe which he said had one of the densest minefields in the world.
Zimbabwe, he said, had about 5 500 landmines per kilometre and that this posed a big risk to local communities. He said local communities had also lost livestock. Speaking at the same event, Japanese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Yoshi Tendai Hiraishi said the de-mining programme had brought relief to the local community.
“It is noteworthy that more and more land is being opened up to the local community, which guarantees freedom of movement for everyone.People now can go across the cleared area while children can walk through to school every day without fear. We are extremely pleased to hand the land back to the community and we hope that the cleared land will now be available for agricultural purposes,” he said.
Zimbabwe is struggling to clear vast minefields dotted along the northern and north-eastern border areas with Zambia and Mozambique, where millions of the anti-personnel explosives were planted during the 1970s war of independence.
Rhodesian forces laid extensive anti-personnel landmines secured from Italy, South Africa and Portugal along the borders between Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique to prevent liberation war fighters from moving in and out of the country for training, fighting and supplies.