Mount Darwin District in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland Central Province has been declared landmine free following landmine clearance efforts by the government.
The southern African country is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, where landmines have killed more than 1,500 people and 120,000 head of livestock since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.
Belts of landmines were planted by Rhodesian colonial forces along the country’s frontiers between Mozambique and Zambia during the liberation war in the 1970s.
The demining of the land will bring relief to the communities across the frontiers, Monica Mavhunga, the minister of state for Mashonaland Central Province, said at the ceremony to hand over cleared lands back to the community in Mukumbura near the Mozambican border.
“It is sad to note that so many people lost their lives. Some lost their livestock and some carry scars as a result of mine related injuries and accidents,” said Mavhunga.
She said that the clearing of the mines will benefit children from nearby schools, who had to dice with death on a daily basis on their way to schools through mine infested areas.
People from neighboring Mozambique who have to go to the Zimbabwean side for education and social services will also benefit from the clearing of the landmines, she said.
Grace Charimba, a villager, said the removal of landmines will enable them to get economic value from their lands.
“There are many handicapped people in our community due to landmines. Our cows also died due to the landmines,” she said.
Over 130,000 landmines have been destroyed in Mashonaland Central Province since 2013, said Samuel Fricker, who is a program manager with demining group Halo Trust.
“It’s up to the communities to decide what they could use the lands for,” he said.
“Some people use the lands for getting access to schools and their fields, and the others used the land for herding their livestock,” he added.
Mkululi Bhika Ncube, director of Zimbabwe Mine Action Center, said the demining exercise is to ensure that Zimbabwe becomes landmine free.
“The entire district is now mine free. It ensures free movement of people, and they can do all they want to do without fear of mines,” he said.
The demining exercise is expected to be completed by 2025, according to the government.