Japan pledges support for Zim's demining

HARARE - Japan will continue to support demining activities in the country towards the goal of achieving a landmine-free Zimbabwe by 2025, its envoy has said.

Speaking during an occasion to mark the completion for The Project for Mine Clearance in Mashonaland Central Province on Thursday, Ambassador Toshiyuki Iwado pledged to push Tokyo to stay supportive of the country’s demining efforts.

The Asian country together with other supporting partners joined hands with The Halo Trust (Halo) in a broader national strategy managed by the Zimbabwe Mine Action Centre to “rid the country of landmines by the end of 2025.”

Some parts of the country are still littered with landmines from the 1970s war of liberation.

The landmines are acting as a barrier to vital community assets such as water sources and grazing land.

For over 40 years now, both human and livestock’s lives have not been spared.

“I wish to congratulate the people of this area because now you can enjoy an easier life with safer access to vital sources of water and grow crops, herd livestock, or gather wild fruits and firewood on land that was previously dangerous”, Iwado said.

The Asian country’s envoy also paid a courtesy call to all the stakeholders that have made this project take off.

“...we should not forget that the challenges of the people of this area are shared by the international community. Japan is only one of the contributors to the work of Halo,” he said.

Halo has been operating in Zimbabwe since 2013. It began the clearance operations in the Mukumbura area and has since expanded operations into areas east and west of Mukumbura as well as into Rushinga district.

Speaking at the same occasion, Halo’s programme manager Tom Dibb thanked Tokyo and its partners for the “continued support in making its efforts worthwhile.”

“Since the programme started in 2013, 40 000 landmines have been found and disposed of in the country, “ he said.

He also expressed optimism that with continued support from partners, the Trust would cleanse the country of the deadly mines by the 2025 target.

Community leaders present including MP for Mount Darwin North Noveti Muponora and Chief Chiswiti also waxed lyrical of Tokyo’s efforts before the Japanese envoy was christened with a local name “Tatenda” which means “thank you”, owing to what the community view as great and commendable work by Iwado and co.

Tinos Jemedza, a 37-year-old resident of the Chisecha area said the demining exercise had restored hope for a community that had endured great suffering.

“For us it seemed like we were still living in a war zone. Zimbabwe is a peaceful country and it is sad that we were still being haunted by things done years ago. Imagine not knowing where to place your foot next.

“The difference between life and death here was determined by the next place you place your foot on. It was hard especially for our children who still want to wander around and explore, telling them you can’t go there or there,” the father of four said.

Mashonaland Central provincial affairs minister Martin Dinha also thanked the Japanese government “for assisting us in many projects here in the province.”

He said this during a meeting with Iwado at Bindura University of Science Education where the Japan envoy toured on Friday morning.

Dinha added that: “The Japanese are well-cultured, respectful and that Zimbabweans have a lot to learn from Japan.”

Plans are already in motion for a twinning arrangement of Mash Central with Hyogo — a Japanese prefecture in the Kansai region of the country’s main island, Honshu.

According to Dinha, Mashonaland Central stands to benefit immensely from the economic zones concept found in Hyogo.

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