The network of commercial airports is being expanded to facilitate trade and tourism under a Government programme, according to Airports Company of Zimbabwe (ACZ) chief executive officer Tawanda Gusha with the present eight to be joined by at least one in every province.
Commercial airports include the three international airports that handle the bulk of scheduled passenger services with the other five tending to specialise in charter flights for tourists and business people, private aviation and other commercial flights.
All are staffed, unlike the small private landing strips.
Government has already embarked on the expansion and modernisation of Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport at a cost of US$153 million.
The eight commercial airports are: RGM International Airport in Harare, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International in Bulawayo, Buffalo Range and Masvingo airports in Masvingo, Hwange and Victoria Falls International in Matabeleland North, and Kariba and Charles Prince in Mashonaland West although Charles Prince is right on the edge of Harare in Mount Hampden and tends to concentrate on the light aviation for the metropolitan area, leaving RGM International for the major passenger and cargo services.
Mashonaland Central and East provinces, Manicaland, the Midlands and Matabeleland South do not have commercial airports.
Speaking to The Herald recently, Mr Gusha, who could not in the meantime disclose funding models for the expansion, said the existing airports were meant to cater for economic activities in major centres only.
“You will find out that we are into airports and infrastructure development, that is the construction and rehabilitation of airports and identification of new sites where new airports have to be constructed.
“In this case I will talk about Mutare for instance and Beitbridge, where currently we do not have commercial airports. We also do not have a commercial airport in Mashonaland Central province.
“It is Government’s desire to have commercial airports in all the provinces. The current airports were targeting tourist areas as well as industrial areas in the country,” he said.
That is why, according to Mr Gusha, there were two major airports in Harare, with RGM International and Charles Prince which is used by some operators flying in and out of Harare for private businesses.
“That one, Charles Prince, was meant most for general aviation and by general aviation we are talking about charter flights and training schools for pilot training. That is our main airport where you find pilot training taking place.”
RGM International Airport in Harare and Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport in Bulawayo were developed mainly to carter for industrial business and tourism and so were in the two largest cities.
Victoria Falls International Airport and Kariba Airport were meant to carter for Victoria Falls and Kariba tourism areas.
“Buffalo Range, besides tourism serves agriculture that takes place there, Tungaat Hullets, the sugar company. Masvingo obviously because of the Great Zimbabwe, and Hwange National Park by its name is right in the heart of Hwange National Park,” he said.
ACZ was created this year after unbundling the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe into an airports company that manages, establishes and acquires airports, while the authority is now an independent regulator.
Accepted best international practice is to ensure that the regulator is not involved with operations.
Under its previous structure, CAAZ was both the player and the referee in that it had regulatory oversight, but also operated airports. Now it will regulate the operations of the aviation industry, including those of the newly-established ACZ.
The Second Republic is prioritising infrastructure development across various sectors, which is a primary means of sustainable economic development that also provides conveniences associated with an upper middle class income economy as envisaged in Vision 2030 and National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1).