President Robert Mugabe on Thursday unveiled a plaque to commemorate the renaming of Harare International Airport after himself.
The change of name was an “honour”, the 93-year-old president said, after he drew open some gold curtains covering the commemorative plaque to the flourish of music from a police brass band.
“May I on behalf of government, the people of Zimbabwe and my own behalf, thank most sincerely the ministry of transport for the honour bestowed in me by renaming the Harare International Airport to Robert Mugabe International Airport,” he said, in quotes carried by the state-run Herald online.
Mugabe already has streets in major towns and cities named after him. There is also a push to build a new billion-dollar Robert Gabriel Mugabe University north of Harare, and to rename the giant Tokwe Mukosi dam in Masvingo after the long-time president.
Analysts say the push to rename major landmarks and institutions after the president comes from the G40 faction within his ruling party, which they say is trying to gain his favour. The faction’s hand was strengthened after their main rival, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was this week sacked and expelled from the party and dozens of his allies suspended.
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change has criticised the renaming of Harare International Airport after Mugabe “as if he’s the only person worthy of recognition”.
“We condemn that and the capture of the state by the Mugabe government,” spokesperson Obert Gutu told News24 in an interview ahead of Thursday’s ceremony, adding that the MDC will reverse the name change if it comes to power in 2018 elections.
Transport Minister Joram Gumbo told the state-run ZBC this week that “all world aviation partners have already been informed of the change of name”.