People & Power

Geo-politics, global, national and local influence. This section is dedicated to monitoring the role of the political class and influential citizens in shaping policies that affect the future of Africa.

Twilight gift: Zimbabwe’s international airport renamed after Mugabe

Zimbabwe’s international airport, Harare has been named after the country’s long-serving president, Robert Gabriel Mugabe. Effective from November 9 2017, Harare International Airport is to bear Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.

Robert Mugabe; born 21 February 1924 is a Zimbabwean revolutionary and politician who has been President of Zimbabwe since 1987, he previously led Zimbabwe as Prime Minister from 1980 to 1987.

He is the only leader Zimbabwe has known since independence in 1980, Renaming of the airport is only one of the many honors accorded the long serving president. 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.

The Zimbabwean government allocated $53-million to the refurbishment of the airport terminal which was built 12 years ago alleges African Independent. Harare International Airport is located 15 kilometres south of Zimbabwe’s capital. It has Africa’s longest runway at 4725 metres.

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 is plagued with controversy as it does not meet international standards of allowing adequate levels of sunlight. Architects condemn the building saying, the airport terminal was not properly built, inside is too dark and when you switch off the lights, you cannot see anything in there.

Worthy of note is that Zimbabwe’s government is bankrupt, that Air Zimbabwe had to fire more than a third of its workforce earlier this year to prevent the state-owned airline from going bankrupt. The airline incurred debts of about $330 million, said Transport Minister Jorum Gumbo. The carrier was also banned from operating in the European Union.

However, President Mugabe argues that the country is not a fragile state, even with reports from the United Nations saying 72 percent of 14 million Zimbabweans live in “extreme poverty”. The Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa also confirmed it at the launch of the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper in Harare last year. “More than 70 percent of Zimbabweans are living in poverty and the government requires about $2.7 billion to implement its Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy in the next two years”.

Regarding the renaming of the airport, finance minister, Gumbo 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,”.

This does not augur well with the opposition parties as they say Mugabe should not abuse public funds by building hollow monuments, while accusing 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.

The renaming of the airport comes amid frantic attempts of Mugabe’s political allies to initiate massive legacy projects in his honour as he enters the twilight of his life. Although, the move has been condemned by opposition political parties who accuse him of ruining the economy.