From Zvamaida Murwira in BURMA VALLEY, Mutare
Zimbabwe has more than 2,5 million land-mines and is ranked as one of the worst infested countries in the world, a situation which demonstrated how determined the Ian Smith regime was in stopping the attainment of independence by the black native majority, legislators have heard.
An international expert in de-mining, Mr Cameron Imber told the portfolio committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services that Zimbabwe’s land-mines planted by Rhodesians were much more than those found in war torn countries like Afghanistan and Kosovo, among other countries he had worked in. Mr Imber, who was contracted by the Nowergian People’s Agency (NPA), a non-governmental-organisation in Norway to train de-miners at Border Streams, Vumba with new technology, was giving a briefing to the committee chaired by Bubi MP Cde Clifford Sibanda (Zanu-PF) that was on a fact finding mission on the landmine situation in the country. A New Zealand national but employed by the United States government, Mr Imber said he had 14 years experience in de-mining and worked in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Kosovo, Mozambique Georgia, among other countries in the world. Norwegian People’s Agency was one of the development partners Government signed an agreement with to fund the de-mining of landmines in Burma Valley, Border Stream and Rusitu Muzite in Chipinge.
“I have conducted de-mining in many countries that include Afghanistan, Cambodia and Mozambique and am now in Zimbabwe. What I have established is that Zimbabwe ranks as one of the worst infected countries with land-mines. It has got more than 2,5 million mines, I am still to see a country which surpasses that number,” said Mr Imber.
“In Cambodia, there are less than 2 million mines, the same with Afghanistan.
In Mozambique there were about 150 000 mines. This shows how determined the Rhodesians were in blocking liberation fighters from coming to Zimbabwe. They wanted to seal off all the borders used by fighters.”
He said there was need for Zimbabwe to engage more partners to mobilise resources in de-mining efforts because it would be difficult for Harare alone to clear the lethal devices.
NPA has since completed de-mining at Burma Valley and will officially handover the area to the Government next month.
NPA site superviser, Mr Clemence Homba said the rate at which they were recovering landmines was higher at Border Stream than at Burma Valley.
He said a total of 1 316 devices had been recovered to date from the few days that they were on the site.
“We started here in June but the quantity of devices recovered is amazing, some of them were recovered by locals,” he said.
Mr Homba said the presence of landmines had not only affected free movement of people but hindered grazing and arable land.
He said their completion of Burma Valley would go a long way in settling villagers who wanted land for agriculture.
NPA and the Zimbabwe National Army were the only organisations undertaking de-mining activities in the country.
Operations by ZNA were, however, hampered by inadequate resources at Dumiso mining base in Sengwe near Chikombedzi.