Cape Town - The Harare International Airport has officially been renamed to Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in a ceremony on Thursday.
The new name was announced in September, when a memo was circulated advising the change, with Zimbabwean media Report Focus News claiming that the government spent $500 000 on the renaming.
Joram Gumbo, Minister of Transport, introduced the guest of honour, President Robert Mugabe, stating that the renaming of the airport is in recognition of the "work the president has done in the aviation industry".
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"The Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport will soon undergo renovation to put a look that befits your stature, your excellence," says Gumbo.
The president thanked the ministry for the honour on behalf of the government, his family and the people of Zimbabwe.
"My government recognises that air transport is integral to the economic growth to our country. While transport in general accelerates the movement of people and goods in a cost-effective way, air transport facilitates and promotes regional trade and tourism, investment and integration," says President Mugabe.
"We therefore like to commend the ministry for coming up with various projects and initiatives that meaningfully contribute to our country's economic development. The government is committed in his efforts to get funding for new projects."
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He referred to the massive increase in visitors to the Victoria Fall airport since its upgrade, claiming it now has the capacity to handle 1,5 million passengers a year, up from the previous year's 5 000 passengers. He adds that the "government is committed to increase the capacities of our airport by liberalising our airspace."
"I am sure my family takes joy in these gestures that come our way. We naturally feel greatly honoured and we feel the honour would go a long way. Family is the whole of our country, not just my wife and children. They all derive joy from the event of today. We are celebrating not just as a Mugabe family, but as a Zimbabwean family," says Mugabe.
Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Saviour Kasukuwere, concluded the ceremony by thanking the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe for the renaming. "As you are the face of Zimbabwe, it is befitting that the airport be named in your name."
The airport is just the latest of facilities and roads named after President Robert Mugabe, including the government's school of intelligence, a main street in Harare and a highway to his rural home. There are also plans to build a university that will be named after him.
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The renaming of the airport also comes on the back of reports that Zimbabwe's national carrier is struggling financially. Gumbo admitted while answering a question by an opposition lawmaker in parliament last week that the country's struggling national airliner, Air Zimbabwe, is running "noisy aircraft' and that it is "ailing".
Gumbo said that the government had started negotiation with 12 international airlines which included Ethiopian, Turkish and Malaysian airlines.
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