Lift your landmines lightly

By Herman Labuschagne

Eden Express article



I grew up in the long strip of Transvaal that drove a narrow wedge between northern Zululand and the Swaziland border. During the border war years this was a favoured entry point for terrorists on their way into South Africa. What appeared to be a normal life back then seems unthinkably strange today, only 20-something years later.


Every morning before we drove to school, someone first had to check the farm tracks for landmines. It didn’t seem unusual. Landmines were just part of life. Our property included most of what was a fairly high mountain. One day while my father was making his rounds he suddenly noticed a spot of freshly-disturbed earth upon the farm track. It looked suspicious enough to call in sappers from the local army base. Upon arrival they were unanimous: This was a landmine for sure. Even the metal detector crackled in the earphones. There was no doubt.


Accordingly, everyone was told to stand far back while the sapper sank to his belly. With a knife he slowly began to probe. It was worse than he had thought.

“The bastards had placed a rock on top of the mine,” he declared.

Everyone bit their lips and the sapper continued to sweat. And then – just as tension was at its worst – the sapper suddenly somersaulted backward in a cloud of dust, screaming like a startled hadeda!


When all had settled the cause came to light. There was no landmine at all. It was just a long buried rock that had loosened the earth in lever-fashion. And beneath the rock, a night adder had made its peaceful home. Afterwards everyone enjoyed a near-hysterical laugh, except the sapper whose nerves were shot. They had taught him how to lift a landmine – “but nobody said a bloody word about snakes…”


Image source:, Causus rhombeatus00., Paul Venter.

Licensed under creative commons.