THE Victoria Falls International Airport, refurbished at a cost of US$150 million, will finally be commissioned by President Robert Mugabe today, after almost a year’s delay.
By Kudzai Kuwaza
The airport’s expansion began in February 2013 and was carried out by a Chinese firm China Jiangsu International Group through a concessionary loan by the China Export and Import Bank. The commissioning of the airport had been initially scheduled for December last year.
The airport has a new-look terminal, a four-kilometre long by 60-metre wide runway and a control tower.
Transport minister Joram Gumbo in an interview yesterday said the loan repayment was on course.
“We are happy that we are making our repayments of the Chinese Exim Bank loan through the money we collect from the Aviation Infrastructure Development Fund (Aidef) and we have not defaulted,” Gumbo said. “We are now thinking of using the fund to rehabilitate other airports, starting with the Harare International Airport.”
He said the upgrade of the Harare International Airport, making it the country’s tourism hub, was the next major project in the aviation sector. However, he would not give a date as to when the rehabilitation project will begin.
“We cannot continue just complaining about our problems,” Gumbo said. “We have to think outside the box to address our challenges and I hope I get support from industry and other stakeholders.”
Gumbo said he is also focused on reviving Air Zimbabwe, which is saddled with a US$300 million debt.
The national airline has had several turnaround strategy papers prepared, but has remained in the red. The appointment of President Robert Mugabe’s son-in-law Simba Chikore as the airline’s chief operating officer sparked widespread outrage amid allegations of nepotism and patronage.