Lifting the shadows
Clearance brings light to lives in Mazemba village, Zimbabwe

Minefield 46 has cast a long shadow over the life of Clever Dzabaya. He was born the year it was laid, in 1976 during Zimbabwe’s Liberation War. Growing up, he vividly remembers the day his dad lost his leg to a mine whilst foraging for firewood. Decades on, Clever is now a father himself and the minefield has continued to overshadow the life of his family.

Three dense rows of anti-personnel mines—Minefield 46 forms a lethal border to Mazemba village. This is Clever’s ancestral home. Land is fertile, although the drought in recent years has taken its toll. His family and the 200 other members of his village survive by growing crops and keeping livestock. Over the years the villagers have been forced to clear informal paths through the minefield to open up access. However, the danger is evident. Either side of the path there are hundreds of deadly landmines—grazing cattle have been lost to these mines, including several owned by Clever.

This is also the perilous route Clever’s children must take each day to reach their school in Chimbuwe. He describes the constant fear for their safety: “You stay the whole day upset, and only feel relieved when you see the kids coming back home.” Like many small children, their second daughter is naturally inquisitive, yet in mine country this could be fatal. Clever describes an incident that so nearly had devastating consequences: “Little children normally want to explore things. She went into the minefield, and was throwing stones at the mines. Suddenly a mine just exploded—she was very lucky she wasn’t injured.”

The arrival of HALO’s deminers has therefore been a huge relief to the inhabitants of Mazemba, including the Dzabaya family. “We know if they demine those dangerous areas, we will be safe from losing our lives and our livestock. I am really happy and excited. I know that the future will be good for us.”

 

A female deminer prepares her clearance lane, Minefield 46, Zimbabwe.

 

It is not only the immediate reduction in danger that demining will bring; cleared land can be made productive. For Clever, it means more space to grow crops. He will be able to introduce cash crops, such as cotton, allowing him to support his family. Safe access to the village also means more traders will come, enabling residents to sell their produce for higher prices. After many years, the shadow of the minefield has begun to recede. Clever and Rachel see a different future for their children.

“Life in Mazemba will soon be normal. I hope that my youngest child will grow up not even knowing what a landmine is.”

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