Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Mutare Bureau
The Manicaland business community yesterday launched a campaign for the construction of a commercial and cargo airport in Mutare as part of efforts to create an export processing zone.
They sad this was in line with Government’s Special Economic Zones programme.
A consortium, which is being chaired by Mutare businessman Mr Joseph Sanhanga, has identified the Grand Reef Airbase, 15km from Mutare town, as the potential location of the proposed airport.
Speaking at the launch of the campaign in Mutare, Mr Sanhanga said a commercial airport would unlock economic growth and employment in the province.
“Manicaland tops in horticulture production and we can actually use the airport to directly transport the products to export destinations and earn some serious foreign currency for the country and the province.
“Without a proper airport we will not achieve anything. We have to make it easy for the investor. So if we already have an airport, investors will easily be attracted to the province, as an investment destination,” he said.
He said the idea of an airport had been proposed several times but nothing had come up because Government did not have the money to refurbish the Mutare airstrip.
“Minister Chinamasa proposed that we go at it alone as business people and present to Government how we think it should be done.
“This is what we have done. We are the ones who stand to benefit more from a commercial airport so it follows that we should take more proactive role in its establishment,” he said.
The Grand Reef Airbase is currently under military control and efforts to get approval to refurbish it will commence once all modalities have been put in place.
The airstrip has a lot of space for expansion.
Mr Sanhanga gave the example of Polokwane in Limpopo Province that established a commercial airport and has become the biggest exporter of citrus fruits, avocado and tomatoes in South Africa.
“Manicaland, just like Limpopo, has been losing revenue and employment opportunities because most of the processing of raw materials has been taking place outside the province.
“This project will build a processing hub for raw materials and cargo freight will cut costs, which also creates economic and employment opportunities,” he said.
Speaking at the same event, Mr Clive Chinwada, the Manicaland chairman for the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe said the risk premium to travel to Mutare at the moment was too high because there was no airport to facilitate easy and quick movement of people and goods.
“We acknowledge that as an industry we need to put in place mechanisms that make the province accessible. We need viable air transportation for us to be competitive,” he said.
The vice national chairman of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Mr Richard Chiwandire said the project could be done in phases to achieve optimum results.
“Modern business and thinking has to be strategic. We have to think of a location of the airport that will be strategic 50 years from now. As Manicaland, we need to sit down and look at what is best for us and the future generations.”
“We have to come up with an industrialisation agenda in line with the SADC Agenda 2063,” he said.