The dangers posed by unexploded ordnance have again been brought forcibly home with serious injuries sustained by a resident of a village close to the Madimbo training area in Limpopo.
An official SA National Defence Force (SANDF) statement indicates the person was illegally in possession of the unexploded ordnance, without explaining what it was. The Madimbo training area is largely an infantry training area and live fire exercises using assault rifles, grenade launchers and mortars are regularly undertaken.
The danger posed by unexploded ordnance is well recognised and the SANDF clearly signs and fences all its ranges along with posted warnings as well as warning people not to venture onto ranges and not to pick up unexploded ordnance.
The SANDF points out that “it is illegal for any unauthorised person/s to enter a military establishment without permission. This will lead to arrest and prosecution regardless of the reasons for the unauthorised entry”.
The incident at Madimbo is being investigated with a view to preventing similar ones in the future.
Earlier this month Armscor issued a tender on behalf of the SANDF’s guided missile and weapons system division for the procurement of disposal equipment to remove improvised explosive devices. No further details were given but it is known that equipment of this type can also be used to detect and destroy unexploded ordnance. Closing date for the tender is Wednesday (February 24).
While ranges in current use for air, land and sea-based weapons are properly fenced and well signed as to their use and the necessity of keeping out unexploded ordnance, some of it dating back to World War II is found from time to time on now unused ranges.
An example of this was the land clearing exercise undertaken by Mechem in Pretoria West late last year ahead of a new housing development. The land earmarked for the development was used as a test site for munitions, manufactured at what is now PMP in Pretoria West and tested nearby in the vicinity of Armscor’s Gerotek vehicle testing centre.
Further west of Pretoria, parts of the Schurveberg were also used for ammunition testing and every now and then an unexploded mortar is found by inquisitive youngsters. Some have taken them home while others have done right and reported the find to police.
Mechem, the demining specialist organisation in the Denel group, trained 20 people over a 10 day period for the Pretoria West clearing. The training covered safety procedures and methods used to identify potentially dangerous objects, including unexploded ordnance. Following this Mechem explosive ordnance specialists examined the objects and lifted them for disposal at safe sites. Following another investigation of the land, Mechem sniffer dogs and professional deminers performed a final sweep to ensure the ground was clear of unexploded ordnance.
The SANDF has ranges for weapons testing and evaluation, as well as training areas, across all nine provinces and some of the better known ones include AFB Overberg, including the Test Flight and Development Centre (TFDC), Riemvasmaak, the SA Army’s Combat Training Centre (CTC) in Northern Cape and the SA Air Force bombing range at Roodewal in Limpopo. Armscor’s Alkantpan range, also in Northern Cape, is regularly used to test artillery and mortar ammunition, both South African and foreign. The access restriction applies to all military establishments, be they bases, sickbays, training areas or shooting ranges.