President Robert Mugabe has paid tribute to the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development for honouring him through the renaming of the Harare International Airport to the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.

Addressing guests who attended the ceremony at the airport in Harare today, the President said the honour is a source of pride not only to him, his spouse and children, but for the nation as a whole as part of his bigger family.

The President said government recognises that air transport is pivotal to the economic growth of the country and that it facilitates trade, tourism and fosters regional integration.

“It also accelerates the movement of people and goods in a cost effective way,” said President Mugabe.

Cde Mugabe revealed that Zimbabwe is making steps to liberalise its airspace in accordance with the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999 and the Solemn Commitment of 2014 to increase the capacities of the country’s airports.

President Mugabe commended the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development for doing the nation proud through the upgrading of the Victoria Falls International Airport whose capacity has increased from a mere 500 000 passengers per annum to the new 1.5 million passengers per year.

He said such developments signify better times ahead for Zimbabwe’s aviation and tourism sectors and the country at large.

The President pledged government’s support for the airport development programmes.

The Airport was built in 1956 to cater for the colonialists and it underwent a major upgrading and expansion into the current infrastructure after independence in the early 1990s.

The airport has a capacity of 2.5 million passengers per year and has a runway spanning some 4725 metres, considered one of the longest in Africa.

The Airport is scheduled to undergo a development programme to meet the goals of the ZIM ASSET programme that include increased tourist arrivals and better connectivity.

The renaming function which began shortly after 10 o’clock with the unveiling of the plaque, was attended by Vice President  Phelekezela Mphoko who introduced the President, and several government ministers, permanent secretaries and president of the Chiefs Council Chief Fortune Charumbira and Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda and his deputy Retired Colonel Christian Katsande and many government officials.

The Minister of State for Harare Metropolitan province Cde Miriam Chikukwa welcomed the guests to the function while Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Cde Saviour Kasukuwere gave a vote of thanks.