LARGE tracts of land are still heavily mined along Zimbabwe’s borders with neighbouring countries as the demining efforts slow down due to lack of funding after the European Union (EU) and the U
nited States withdrew.
About 400 km of Zimbabwe’s border are still covered by land- mines, posing a serious danger to human and animal life. Already more than 800 human lives have been lost to anti-personnel mines, the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) said this week.
Most of the anti-personnel mines were planted by Rhodesian forces in the 1970s to stop independence war guerilla forces from crossing into or out of Zimbabwe.
Lieutenant Isaac Goora of the ZNA public relations department said donor support had dried up. He said army engineers would however continue with the exercise “with or without donor assistance” to clear the remaining “dangerous” mine fields.
Goora said the United States, Britain and Germany had made a one-time donation of equipment towards the project while Zimbabwe provided funding for logistics and demining troops before the scheme ground to a halt.
The EU Commission and the US embassy in Harare confirmed last week that Zimbabwe requested more funding but that was rejected. The ZNA said vast stretches of the border with Mozambique and Zambia were still covered in minefields and the project was proceeding slowly due to lack of resources.
“The programme began in 1998. We provided training and equipment until 2001,” said Lt Col Daniel Hampton, the Defence Attaché at the US embassy in Harare.
“Zimbabwe afterwards requested more funding especially for equipment and repairing of equipment, most of which came from the USA. But there was no more funding provided by the USA.”
The EU press and information officer, Josiah Kusena, said the EU had funded a demining project for 10 million euros.
“We don’t have a demining project currently on our programme. The programme, which was called the Minefield Clearance in North-East Zimbabwe, was approved in 1995 and became operational in 1996,” he said.