HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe will upgrade its main airport at a cost of $153 million in an effort to attract more visitors, state media reported on Thursday, as authorities renamed the airport in honor of 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe.
Harare International Airport will from Thursday be known as Robert Mugabe International Airport and is expected to undergo an upgrade so that it can handle 6.5 million passengers a year, more than double its current capacity.
State-owned Herald newspaper reported that China Export and Import Bank will provide a $153 million loan that will, among other things, be used to expand the runway to allow multiple planes to land at the same time.
Accepting the honor, Mugabe said renaming the airport was “a great gesture” to him and his family.
In the last few months, Mugabe’s vocal ruling ZANU-PF youth wing has been pushing the government to honor Mugabe by giving public institutions his name.
The government has said from next year the veteran ruler’s Feb. 21 birthday will be known as Robert Mugabe National Youth Day, a public holiday.
On Aug 9. the cash-strapped government announced plans to build a $1 billion university named after Mugabe, a move that was criticized by the opposition as a waste of resources.
Mugabe is the only leader that Zimbabwe has known since independence from Britain in 1980 and despite his advanced age, he remains the most influential political figure in the country.
(Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by James Macharia and Gareth Jones)
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