Maputo — Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi pledged on Monday that construction of an airport in the southern province of Gaza will begin this year.
Speaking at Licilo, in Limpopo district, on the first day of a working visit to Gaza, Nyusi declared “the airport will happen, as I have said before. The technicians have come here, they've made the measurements, they've tested the soil, and a tender has been launched in China. The company that wins the tender will begin to build the airport this year”.
The airport is to be built at Chonguene, about 17 kilometres from the provincial capital, Xai-Xai. The runway will be 1,600 metres long, and the entire airport is budgeted at 50 million US dollars. Last year China pledged to provide 15 million dollars for the airport, which is less than a third of what is required.
Nonetheless, Nyusi was confident the airport will go ahead. “There's money, the agreement's been signed, and there's no reason to doubt”, he said.
Critics point out that Xai-Xai is only three hours drive from Maputo, and doubt that there is sufficient demand to make an international airport viable. Nyusi brushed aside such criticisms, arguing that the airport will prove useful for Gaza's development. “Why do they talk politics, when people want to develop Gaza?” he asked.
Mozambique already has one international airport that is virtually unused. That is the airport in the northern city of Nacala, inaugurated in 2014 by Nyusi's predecessor, Armando Guebuza. Although it is the most modern airport in the country, the only airline flying there is Mozambique Airlines (LAM), with two flights a week from Maputo.
If the Gaza airport is indeed built, it will almost certainly depend for its viability on charter flights bringing tourists to the Gaza beaches and wild life parks.
Nyusi was also optimistic about revival of the project to mine titanium bearing heavy mineral sands in Chibuto district. This has been on the drawing board for many years, with successive potential investors showing interest, but then dropping out.
This time Nyusi was convinced that the project will take off, including a new rail link from Chibuto to Chokwe, where it will meet the Limpopo Line that runs between Zimbabwe and Maputo.