ZDF conducts demining operations 1 Infantry Brigade senior medical officer Captain Tatenda Chikomo takes the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence and War Veterans Mr Aaron Nhepera (left) on a tour during the official hand over of Mbamba clinic to Tsholotsho Rural District Council. Looking on are Tsholotsho Senator Alice Dube and District Medical Officer Dr Mbonisi Nyathi

Sikhumbuzo Moyo, [email protected]

THE Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) is engaged in demining exercises in Matabeleland North and Masvingo provinces in line with the country’s National Mine Action Strategy that seeks to get rid of all landmines in the country by 2025.

In Matabeleland North, the army’s demining operations are focused on the Lisulu area on the outskirts of Lupane while in Masvingo the exercise is centred on Dumisa, Chiredzi. The anti-personnel landmines were planted by the brutal Rhodesian forces to deter liberation fighters entering the country from neighbouring Mozambique and Zambia.

They planted an estimated three million anti-personnel mines between 1974 and 1979 in five major minefields across 850 kilometres of the country’s eastern and northern borders.

Dense belts of land mines — some with about 5 500 per square kilometre on Zimbabwe’s border with Mozambique have hindered development in marginalised communities.

According to Africa Defence Forum, as of September 2018, landmines were thought to dot more than 66 square kilometres of land.

A survey of Zimbabwe’s north-eastern region identified 87 communities with a population of more than 75 000 people directly affected by landmines.

Mr Aaron Nhepera unveils a plaque during the  official hand over of Mbamba Clinic to Tsholotsho Rural District Council while Tsholotsho Senator Alice Dube looks on

The survey also found that 78 minefields were within 500 metres of residential areas. The land mines block access to residential land, inhibit cross-border trade, deny small-scale farmers access to agricultural land, separate communities from primary water sources and adversely affect sanitation and livestock production.

As a result, most affected areas have disproportionate levels of poverty and high rates of food insecurity.

As a party to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention, the Government of Zimbabwe is committed to working toward meeting the 2025 target of making the country free of land mines by putting into operation the National Mine Action Authority of Zimbabwe, a policy and regulatory body for mine action in the country.

Reporting to the authority is the Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre (ZIMAC), which coordinates the country’s demining activities.

In 2018, Zimbabwe launched its National Mine Action Strategy 2018-2025.

The country has five demining missions: the Zimbabwe National Army’s National Mine Clearance Unit, HALO Trust, Mines Advisory Group, the Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) and Belgian-registered APOPO, or Anti-Personnel Landmines Removal Product Development.

To date ZDF has cleared more than 291 square kilometres of landmines leaving 19, 4 square kilometres still to be cleared since the inception of demining operations.

Speaking at the handover of Mbamba Clinic in Tsholotsho South on Wednesday Ministry of Defence and War Veterans Affairs permanent secretary, Mr Aaron Nhepera, said the presence of landmines in communities has a negative effect on the country’s development strategy and is a threat to human and animal life.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the ZDF is also engaged in demining activities around Dumisa in Chiredzi, Masvingo Province and around Lisulu in Lupane, Matabeleland North Province where military engineers are removing landmines,” he said.

“The mines, which are remnants of the protracted war of liberation, were planted by the brutal and ruthless Rhodesian regime in a futile attempt to prevent infiltration by liberation war combatants from their bases in Mozambique and Zambia.

“The continued existence of these indiscriminate weapons poses a direct threat to humans, livestock, and wildlife. Their successful removal, therefore, does not only improve lives but allows for the productive utilisation of land by inhabitants of the affected communities,” said Mr Nhepera.

Mbamba Clinic

Mamba Clinic is one of the projects implemented by the ZDF during the ZDF community assistance week.

Meanwhile, Chief Mahlathini has praised the army for its community assistance and urged his subjects not to shy away from joining the army.

“The army has shown that it is a people’s force as shown today by this clinic. We have all seen that being a soldier is not about fighting and killing all the time. It has always pained me that whenever the army recruits, Tsholotsho has failed to fill up its allocated quota because people think being in the army is all about being a killer,” said Chief Mahlathini.

He said there are doctors, engineers, artisans and musicians in the army.

“So,let’s allow our children to join the army and serve their nation”, said Chief Mahlathini.

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