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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action
from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived
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South Africa: Ban Landmines Campaign
Any links to other sites in this file from 1996 are not clickable,
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South Africa: Ban Landmines Campaign
Date Distributed (ymd): 961117
PRESS STATEMENT: MILITARY VETERANS URGE MANDELA TO BAN
15 October 1996
For Further Information Please Contact:
Noel Stott, at the South African Campaign To Ban Landmines,
P.O. Box 32882, Braamfontein, South Africa 2017 (Tel:
27-11-403-4204; Fax: 27-11-4722380; E-mail:
High-ranking military veterans have appealed to President
Mandela to implement an immediate and total ban on
anti-personnel landmines arguing that such a move would be
both "humane" and "militarily responsible".
Speaking today at a press conference called by the South
African Campaign To Ban Landmines, representatives from the
Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA) Veterans Association,
Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) Military Veterans Association and the
Council of Military Veterans' Organisations, called on
President Mandela to ban anti-personnel mines.
[APIC Note: According to an article in the Weekly Mail and
Guardian (October 11, 1996), in May South Africa announced a
ban on export of anti-personnel mines and a suspension of
their operational use, and now supports efforts towards a
global ban. The government has not yet adopted a ban on
production. A review of the military utility of anti-
personnel mines was scheduled to be presented this month to
the South African Cabinet.]
In an open letter addressed to the President,
Lieutenant-General Raymond Holtzhausen (Council of Military
Veterans), Mr Wilson Ngcayiya (MK Veterans Association) and Mr
Kwedie Mkalipi (APLA Veterans Association) urged the South
African government to take its commitment to eliminate
landmines a step further and to implement a ban on the
production, stockpiling, sale and use of these weapons.
The veterans argued that anti-personnel landmines fall into
the same category as chemical weapons which are banned under
international law "because they are hard to control and often
cause unintended harm" and that, "given the wide range of
weaponry available to today's military forces, anti-personnel
landmines are not indispensable".
The open letter went on to say that "we believe that banning
these weapons would not undermine South Africa's military
effectiveness, nor the safety of our forces". "A ban would
help to alleviate the global and regional landmine crisis" and
South Africa would "set a leading example in Africa".
According to the South African Campaign To Ban Landmines, a
coalition of more than 100 organisations including
development agencies, religious organisations and human rights
bodies, landmines kill or maim almost 70 people every day.
Currently, an estimated 100 million landmines are planted,
mostly in Africa, and another 100 million stockpiled around
the world. There are around 300 types of mines, some of which
cost less than R5 a piece. The costs involved in locating and
defusing or removing one mine total around R5 000, however.
Of the 60 mine-contaminated states around the world, 45 are
countries struggling to re-build their societies torn apart by
war. And South Africa's neighbours, Angola and Mozambique,
are listed by the UN as amongst the most mine-contaminated
countries in the world. The South African Campaign To Ban
Landmines quotes the UN's current estimates that it could take
as long as 11 centuries to clear all the world's mines if
clearing takes place at current rates. Although around 100 000
mines are cleared every year, at least 2 to 3 million new ones
The call by South African military veterans follows close on
the heels of a Canadian-sponsored conference in early October
which strengthened world-wide government support for a ban on
anti-personnel landmines. The conference ended with the
adoption of the Ottawa Declaration which includes a commitment
to working towards "the earliest possible conclusion of a
legally binding international agreement to ban anti-personnel
landmines". And, Canada has promised to call governments
together again at the end of 1997 to sign a ban treaty.
Also earlier this month, the UN pledged to boost its efforts
to clear landmines and Yasushi Akashi, UN Undersecretary
General for Humanitarian Affairs, called for a global ban on
anti-personnel landmines. According to Akashi, international
pressure must be kept up "until every government has agreed to
a total and unequivocal ban on landmines."
The international move towards a ban on anti-personnel
landmines has gathered momentum in the last months: around 50
countries now support the call for a ban and over 650
non-governmental organisations in over 40 countries are
involved in the International Campaign To Ban Landmines, to
which the South African campaign is affiliated.
In South Africa, the Mandela letter signed by military
veterans, has boosted the growing movement in favour of a ban
on anti-personnel mines. According to Penny Mckenzie of the
South African Campaign To Ban Landmines, "the fact that the
call is being made by top brass ex-soldiers throws into
question some of the arguments put forward by the South
African National Defence Force for the continued use of
Mckenzie added that the South African campaign is part of an
international movement which "is committed to pushing for an
end to the use of these inhumane weapons by the year 2000. If
the South African government is committed to human rights and
to promoting peace and development within Southern Africa, it
should pass a law banning these weapons".
The South African Campaign to Ban Landmines, is coordinated by
the Ceasefire Campaign, and participating groups include:
Oxfam (UK and Ireland), the Group for Environmental Monitoring
and the Justice and Peace Unit of the Catholic Church.
Since the launch of the local campaign just over a year ago,
activities have included the following:
* a trip of high profile South African politicians - including
ANC MP Tony Yengeni - to Mozambique to meet with Dr Graca
Machel, visit demining operations and tour a hospital where
mine victims are treated;
* lobbying meetings with the Departments of Foreign Affairs
and Defence and spokes people on defence for a range of
* presentation in December 1995 and in March 1996 to the
Parliamentary Joint-Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs and
the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence respectively;
* a kid's mini-carnival where Johannesburg school children
painted pictures for children in Mozambican hospitals
recovering from landmine injuries;
* a public-awareness campaign: petition tables in shopping
centres (more than 15 000 signatures have been gathered to
support the call for a ban) briefing meetings with
organisations, distribution of the Ceasefire newsletter,
pamphlets and posters.
OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MANDELA
14 October 1996
Dear President Mandela
We the signatories to this letter welcome our government's
commitment to eliminate anti-personnel landmines. We believe,
however, this should be taken a step further and we call on
the South African government to declare a complete ban on
anti-personnel mines, that is, a ban on their production,
stockpiling, sale and use.
Such a ban is not only humane, but also militarily
responsible. A ban would help to alleviate the global and
regional landmine crisis. South Africa would join more than 39
countries already supporting a ban and set a leading example
In our view, anti-personnel mines fall into the same category
as chemical weapons, which have been banned under
international law, because they are hard to control and often
cause unintended harm (sometimes even to those who lay them).
In addition, their indiscriminate effects are felt long after
hostilities have ended, continuing to cause deaths and
casualties amongst innocent people.
Today landmines will kill or maim almost 70 people, 500 people
will be killed or injured this week and more than 26 000 this
There are an estimated 100 million landmines laid throughout
the world, mostly in developing countries and largely in
Africa. Two of South Africa's neighbours - Angola and
Mozambique - appear on the UN's list of the world's most
mine-contaminated countries. In these and other countries, it
will take decades of slow and dangerous work to remove mines.
And, the cost in monetary terms and in human lives will be
Given the wide range of weaponry available to today's military
forces, anti-personnel landmines are not indispensable. Thus,
we believe that banning these weapons would not undermine
South Africa's military effectiveness, nor the safety of our
We strongly urge you to lead South Africa towards an immediate
and total ban of anti-personnel landmines.
Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA) Veterans Association
Ex-South African Military Nursing Service Association
Memorable Order of Tin Hats (MOTH)
Naval Officers Association of Southern Africa
South African Air Force Association
South African Scottish Regiments Association
South African Jewish Ex-Service League
South African Infantry Association
South African Medical Services Veterans Association
Special Forces League
St Dunstan's Association for South African War Blinded
The Naval Association of South Africa
The SA Armour Association
The Royal Air Forces Association
The Royal Naval Association
Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) Military Veterans Association
The letter was compiled by the South African Campaign To Ban
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