Freeman Razemba–Senior Reporter
The US$153 million expansion of the terminal at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport is at an advanced stage, with the construction almost complete and just awaiting final touch ups being conducted while Government moves to the next phase of the construction of the VVIP Pavilion by next month.
The project is among flagship projects implemented by the new dispensation, which emphasises tangible development in line with the National Development Strategy 1.
On completion, the airport will become a regional aviation hub able to handle about 6 million passengers annually, from the 2,5 million presently.
The upgrade of Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport is expected to see more international airlines opening routes into Harare and a corresponding increase in tourist arrivals.
Under the new dispensation, Government is pioneering a number of projects in line with President Mnangagwa’s vision of attaining an upper middle-income economy by 2030.
Travellers have hailed the Government on the completion of the terminal upgrade and expansion.
Mr Antony Kawondera said this development has proven that Government was serious about infrastructure development projects in the country.
“During these past few months we have been witnessing that a lot of projects including roads have been completed countrywide. We are happy that finally the airport has been completed, in line with the National Development Strategy,” he said.
Another traveller Mrs Faith Mupindu said it was her hope that after the airport was completed, Government will also install state-of-the-art equipment which she has seen in some of the airports worldwide, such as self-service check-in machines, among others.
Ms Judith Sithole also said the completion of the terminal was going to accommodate more travellers with high standards of service.
She applauded the Government and urged it to ensure that all airports in the country meet international standards.
Meanwhile, in an interview yesterday after the commissioning of the ground handling equipment of Aviation Ground Services, Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona said he was happy that progress at RGM International Airport was at an advanced stage.
“I am actually happy that in terms of progress at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, we are meeting the targets. We have been saying that by mid-year we should have done the arrivals section and now we are busy doing the tiling, the painting inside. The building will be ready to be commissioned soon.
“But above all, regardless of Covid-19 which actually delayed the programme, we are on course in terms of what we have to achieve at the end of the year. I can assure the people of Zimbabwe, come the end of the year we will be done with all the structural work and we will be done with the inside. What will be remaining is the type of equipment that we will be using and we are in the process of procuring as we speak,” he said.
He said in just a month or so they are going to begin the construction of the VVIP Pavilion that can be used by very important persons, including the President and his entourage, without disrupting anyone else and without risking misuse of the facilities.
On the commissioning of the equipment, Minister Mhona said this was an opportune development, which supports Government’s thrust to enhance service provision at the airport.
“Furthermore, it is in tandem with the National Development Strategy 1’s (NDS1) objective of having a safe, efficient and reliable world-class air transport infrastructure and services.”
President Mnangagwa’s Government would continue to enact and implement polices that support infrastructure development and refurbishment programmes.
“The Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport is the gateway into our country and should always reflect the Zimbabwean hospitality, steadfast commitment to high standards of service, and the provision of a memorable experience to our valued visitors. In line with this, the Government embarked on the upgrading of the RGM International Airport so as to increase its handling capacity. The completion of this airport upgrade is one of the quick wins under the NDS1,” he said.
The minister said it was Government’s firm belief that this project will place the economy on a positive growth trajectory and this development will further enhance safety of airport operations, reduce airport delays, and bring more comfort to travellers.
“Our Government has engaged in the progressive liberalisation of air transport markets, with the aim of enhancing destination connectivity and permitting airlines’ operational flexibility for the benefit of travellers. This comes against the background of our attestation and commitment to the Single Africa Transport Market. All these initiatives are expected to increase airline frequency and business for our ground handlers.
“Allow me to take this opportunity to applaud Aviation Ground Services for embarking on the modernisation of the ground handling equipment, which includes x-ray machines, loaders and transporters. This will go a long way in ensuring efficient and reliable ground support at RGM International Airport and overall convenience to travellers.
“It is common knowledge that efficient and reliable ground support equipment is key in ensuring smooth turnarounds and on-time departures thus avoiding delays, and inconvenience for passengers,” he said.
He applauded the Airports Company of Zimbabwe and the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, for working exceptionally well with private companies in the industry.
The Aviation Ground Services managing director Caleb Mudyawabikwa said his company has never looked back since its inception in 2001 when it was granted cargo and aircraft handling concession by CAAZ to offer cargo and aircraft handling services at RGM, Victoria Falls and JM Nkomo International Airports.
“Despite the unpredictable and uneven business terrain and Covid-19 business related challenges that engulfed the aviation industry, the company has remained resolute and focused on service excellence and sustainability,” he said.
He said the company has invested in equipment worth millions of dollars and this equipment includes state-of-the-art cargo X-Ray machine, high deck loader, cargo transporter, motorised passenger steps, cargo dollies, belt loader, air start unit and staff buses.
“The equipment has boosted Aviation Ground Services cargo and aircraft handling capabilities and it will go a long way in easing the shortage of equipment at the airport. AGS is effectively playing its role in trade facilitation. About 70 percent of airfreight cargo in and out of the country passes through the company’s corridors each and every single day.
Aviation Ground Services was supporting and providing aircraft and cargo handling services to KLM, Emirates, Qatar, South Africa Airways, Kenya Airways and Charter flights.
The event was attended by the Aviation Ground Services board chairman Mr Musekiwa Kumbula and senior Government officials.