BULAWAYO – The long-awaited Joshua Mqabuko International Airport will be finally commissioned today after years of delay since the upgrading of facilities was started.
The airport, renamed after the late Vice President Joshua Nkomo, has been facing major funding constraints which resulted in prolonged delays while refurbishment of the project went on for more than a decade with several deadlines being missed.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe (Caaz) announced yesterday the new development which comes as good news to the de-industrialised city of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest.
“Caaz wishes to inform its valued customers that with effect from Friday November 1, the new Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo new international terminal in Bulawayo will be operationalised,” the aviation body announced in a press release.
“The terminal building is a state-of-the-art facility designed to serve the interest of the flying public and the community at large.”
Caaz says the airport has a capacity of handling 1,5 million passengers per year. It says the facility features the requisite safety, security systems and ambience characteristics of a modern airport.
“While the terminal is undergoing its final stages of completion, it has become absolutely necessary to operationalise the facility to allow the utilisation of already installed systems,” the Caaz statement said.
Caaz also appealed to its customers to bear with it as the aviation authority puts “final touches to the terminal.”
The commissioning of the airport follows a recent tour of the site by Transport and Infrastructural Development minister, Obert Mpofu where he hinted that President Robert Mugabe had ordered an immediate opening of the multi-million dollar facility.
While the project will now swing into life, sources say an estimated $2,5 million is needed for the airport to be considered fully complete.
For years the airport has been handling the arrival and departure of domestic and international flights under a makeshift aircraft hangar made of corrugated iron sheets that had been transformed into a temporary terminal.