Humanitarian Disarmament in Zimbabwe
Landmine contamination in Zimbabwe is a result of its armed liberation struggle for independence, which was at its peak between 1975 and 1980. The impact of contamination in Zimbabwe is a social and economic, as well as humanitarian problem.
Zimbabwe remains one of the ten most landmine contaminated countries in the world. A large part of the suspected mined area in Zimbabwe (approx. 50 km2) is within the Great Limpopo Park (shared with South Africa and Mozambique).The majority of landmines were laid along the Eastern and Northern borders of the country by the Rhodesian Army. The aim of which was to restrict access to the freedom fighters from free movement inland, to block any opportunity for them to access military training in Mozambique and to hinder inflow of supplies. A number of smaller minefields were also laid further inland to protect key infrastructure and permanent bases. Many of the freedom fighters were operating out of Zambia and Mozambique.
Government statistics reveal more than 1,550 people dead, more than 2,000 people injured and more than 120 000 cattle have been killed or injured from mine contamination since the liberation struggle. Mine contamination has also hugely limited access to water sources, cross border movement and arable land for agriculture.
Research has deduced that land mine threat in Zimbabwe is mostly of anti-personnel mines (APM) with few instances of anti-vehicle mines (AVM) and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). Whilst a number of surveys have been carried out by different entities, the available information on the true extent and nature of contamination is not clear, especially in areas where some form of clearance, such as bulldozing sections of the known minefields, had been undertaken in the past
NPA country programme
In 2012 NPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Zimbabwe which mandates it to survey and clear three (3) of the five (5) minefields being Leacon Hill to Sheba Forrest minefield, Burma Valley minefield and Rusitu to Muzite minefield. The total size of the three minefields was 16.7 million square meters. This MoU was renewed for an additional five (5) year period in December 2015. Zimbabwe has also requested international support for establishing a mine action centre (structures and procedures), capacity building, survey and clearance.
The NPA Humanitarian Disarmament Program in Zimbabwe was established in August 2012 to assist the government of Zimbabwe to clear all mined areas under its jurisdiction. NPA’s intervention in Zimbabwe aims to assist the government to more rapidly restore safe access to land, reduce the number of mine victims, promote infrastructure development, spur economic growth, and allow safe border crossing.NPA’s intervention is currently releasing land for use by communities/authorities along the border, allowing them to engage in their planned and day to day activities such as safe patrolling of the border, farming, access to clean water, access schools in closer proximity to their villages, grazing livestock as well as cross-border interaction without the threat of accidents which may result in loss of a limb or life.
NPA’s activities predominantly focused on clearance using manual clearance teams and Mine Detections dogs (MDD). NPA introduced a mine detection dog (MDD) team which was accredited by the national authorities, the Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre (ZIMAC). The concept was officially approved as part of demining tool box in 2018. The MDD has increased productivity by approximately 25% since its introduction.
NPA Humanitarian Disarmament (HD) has managed to clear 4.8 Million sq. meters and cancelled 695K sq. meters and destroyed 21,744 AP mines. The remaining contamination is estimated to be at 11.9 million sq. meters. The NPA HD program plans is to finish clearance by 2024. The Burma valley mine field was cleared and handed over in 2015 and 253 households have benefited from the cleared land.
Zimbabwe achieved its independence in 1980. Norwegian People’s Aid has had a development programme in the country since 1983 after having played an active role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. The development programme is run by a programme manager from our office in Harare. Our humanitarian programme, however, which began in Zimbabwe in 2012, is run from the city of Mutare.