The Zimbabwean government says it has renamed the Harare International Airport to Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in honour of the country’s long-serving president, but the move has been condemned by opposition political parties who accuse him of ruining the economy.
African Independent can exclusively reveal that the bankrupt government has allocated $53-million to the refurbishment of the airport terminal which was built 12 years ago.
This comes amid frantic attempts by Mugabe’s political allies to initiate massive legacy projects in his honour as he enters the twilight of his life. Born in 1924, he is the only leader Zimbabwe has known since independence in 1980.
Last month, the government announced the approval of a plan to build a state-funded Robert Mugabe University which will cost taxpayers $1-billion. Soon after, the authorities announced that February 21, Mugabe’s birthday, has been declared a national holiday.
Transport Minister Jorum Gumbo said Cabinet has approved the renaming of Zimbabwe’s main airport. He argues that Mugabe deserves recognition.
“If you see his contribution to the liberation struggle, education and empowerment of the people of Zimbabwe and Africa, you will see that he has a rich legacy that has to be preserved and his history should not be erased even as people visit our country,” says Gumbo.
Opposition parties say Mugabe should not abuse public funds by building hollow monuments. They accuse him of destroying the economy and plunging the country into untold poverty.
“Robert Mugabe is not Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe is not Robert Mugabe. This weir and bootlicking concept of reducing Zimbabwe into a personal fiefdom of Robert Mugabe and his family must be condemned in the strongest of terms,” says the mainstream opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
A senior official who refused to be named said the current airport terminal, constructed by companies linked to President Mugabe’s nephew Leo in a state-financed project plagued with controversy, does not meet international standards because it does not allow adequate levels of sunlight.
“The airport terminal was not properly built. Inside, it is too dark. When you switch off the lights, you cannot see anything in there. Architects have condemned that building. The $53 million will be used to reconstruct part of the airport terminal,” said the official.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) confirmed on Monday that the airport would be renamed with effect from November 9 2017.
Caaz has issued a notice to airlines and pilots worldwide informing them of the changes. The airport, currently codenamed HRE, is expected to be assigned a new international code.
Harare International Airport is located 15 kilometres south of Zimbabwe’s capital. It has Africa’s longest runway at 4 725 metres.
Although the United Nations says 72 percent of 14 million Zimbabweans live in “extreme poverty”, President Mugabe argues that the country is not a fragile state.
“We have got universities. Our literacy rate is over 90 percent; it’s the highest in Africa. Don’t talk about us as if we are a fragile state,” Mugabe told a World Economic Forum meeting in South Africa recently.