Zimbabwe remains one of the ten most landmine contaminated countries in the world. This is a result of the War of Liberation, 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.
A large part of the suspected mined area in Zimbabwe (approx. 50 km2) is within the Great Limpopo Park, which is 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 in order to restrict the freedom fighters’ movement inland, block their opportunity to access military training in Mozambique and 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.
According to Government statistics, more than 1,550 people have been killed, more than 2,000 people have been injured and more than 120 000 cattle have been killed or injured by landmines since the end of the war. Mine contamination has also hugely limited access to water sources, cross border movement and arable land for agriculture.
The landmine 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, 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’s Mine Action and Disarmament Programme in Zimbabwe was established in August 2012 to assist the government of Zimbabwe in clearing 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 has been operating in three minefields with a total size of 16.7 million square metres:
- Leacon Hill to Sheba Forest
- Burma Valley
- Rusitu to Muzite.
The Burma valley minefield was cleared and handed over in 2015, benefiting 253 households.
Clearance and land release along the border have enabled communities and authorities to engage in activities such as border control, farming, access to clean water, attending 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 has also supported Zimbabwe with capacity building and the establishment of a mine action centre. The Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre (ZIMAC) has become an independent and efficient coordinating body for the mine action efforts, which has been recognised by the Mine Action Review.
In Zimbabwe, NPA have predominantly been using manual clearance teams, but in 2018, a mine detections dogs dog team was accredited as part of the demining tool box. The mine detection dogs have increased productivity by approximately 25%.