Second de-mining squadron on cards

via Second de-mining squadron on cards | The Herald June 23, 2015 by George Maponga

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces has announced plans to establish a second de-mining squadron next year to expedite the de-mining of minefields around the country that have caused the deaths of nearly 2 000 people since independence.

The ZDF currently has one squadron, the National Demining Squadron, that is carrying out humanitarian de-mining operations where nearly three million landmines were planted by Rhodesian military forces during the war of liberation.

The landmines were planted in six-distinct areas along the country’s borders in an attempt to stop the infiltration of freedom fighters from either Mozambique or Zambia into the then Rhodesia between 1976 and 1979.

Speaking during a visit to Dumisa National Mine Clearance Base in the Limpopo Valley, where defence attaches accredited to Zimbabwe toured on Thursday last week, the Zimbabwe Corps of Engineers Commander Colonel Mkhululi Ncube said shortage of resources was hampering efforts to make Zimbabwe free of mines.

Colonel Ncube, who is also the director of Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre, said at the current pace, it would take Zimbabwe at least 20 more years to clear all the mines.

“Next year we are going to set up another squadron to increase the number of our personnel who will carry out humanitarian de-mining operations at the remaining minefields,’’ he said.

“The major challenge that we are facing is shortage of equipment to carry out the humanitarian de-mining operations and we appeal to well-wishers and other international donors to assist in whatever way so that we can free this country of mines.

“These have caused 1 650 deaths, 2 000 injuries on humans and traumatised about 800 000 people since independence.”

Colonel Ncube said out of the six identified minefields, only the Victoria Falls-Mlibizi and Burma Valley minefields had been successfully de-mined since independence, while the Sango Border Post to Crooks Corner, Rusite to Muzite, Sheba Forest to Leacon Hill and Musengezi to Ruenya minefields were still dangerous.

He said only international partners like the Halo Trust and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) were assisting while other major donors like the US and Western nations pulled out their support more than 10 years ago.

Colonel Ncube said the problem of mines, especially along the Sango Border Post to Crooks Corner minefield, which straddles over 53km, was hampering free movement of tourists and wildlife in the Great Limpopo Trans-Frontier Park.

The park joins Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou, South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park into one borderless wildlife sanctuary.

Speaking after the tour of the Dumisa minefield, Dean of the Defence Attaches accredited to Zimbabwe, Lieutenant Colonel Tlhage Modise of Botswana challenged other countries to assist Zimbabwe to rid itself of mines.

Lt-Colonel Modise said the problem of mines was not Zimbabwe’s problem alone but also a challenge for other countries in the SADC region and beyond.

The delegation also comprised defence attaches from Namibia, Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania, China and the United States.