Zimbabwe Asks for More Time to Clear Mines From 1970s Struggle

Zimbabwe has asked the United Nations to extend its deadline to remove landmines left over from the 1970s struggle against white minority rule, citing a chronic shortfall in funding.

Zimbabwe is a signatory to an international treaty banning anti-personnel landmines and it has agreed to eradicate the weapons from its territory by 2018. Demining will take the southern African nation more than 20 years at the current funding level which is only enough for clearing about 10 kilometers (6 miles) of land a year, Zimbabwe Army Commander Colonel Mukhuli Ncube told lawmakers studying the issue.

“We have so far requested three extensions and we are working on another extension because the third one ends in 2018,” Ncube said during a site visit to Gonarezhou National Park, 535 kilometers southeast of the capital, Harare.

Parts of Zimbabwe are the most densely mined areas in the world, with at least 187 identified minefields situated close to homes, schools, health centers and farmland, according to Halo Trust, a U.K.-based demining group funded by the Japanese, Irish and American governments.

The landmines were planted by the white-minority government in the 1970s along the country’s borders with Zambia and Mozambique to stop the flow of supplies and outside training during the liberation struggle, according to Halo Trust. The country gained independence from the U.K. in 1980.

Demining campaigners in Zimbabwe are trying to drum up more money to supplement the $500,000 budget provided by the government and contributions made by aid groups, in a bid to accelerate the process, said Ncube.

“We are having funding challenges in this exercise and this is why we are moving at a slow pace, but we are hoping that many partners can come and join us in the demining,” he said. “We require millions of dollars to clear the landmines.”

Some of the weapons are buried along the border crossing at Victoria Falls, a tourist attraction, and Gonarezhou National Park, where the government expects to reintroduce black rhinos within the next two years, said Ncube.

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