UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
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: firstname.lastname@example.org).
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 are laid.
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 mines".
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 political parties;
* 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 Africa.
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 year.
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 vast.
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 forces.
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 Landmines
Message-Id: <199611171604.IAA15139@igc3.igc.apc.org> Date: Sun, 17 Nov 1996 11:00:17 -0500 Subject: South Africa: Ban Landmines Campaign
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar
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