Honouring Zambia’s Freedom Fighters

SHORTLY before Zambia celebrates 50 years of independence on October 24, 2014, three major international airports bear names of the country’s prominent freedom fighters.

Those aircraft landing facilities are Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (formerly Lusaka International Airport), Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport (formerly Ndola International Airport) and the Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport (formerly Livingstone International Airport).

Dr Kaunda served as first President from 1964 to 1991 and the late Mr Nkumbula was the president of the African National Congress (ANC), first recognised political party for Africans in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).

The late Mr Kapwepwe, who was Dr Kaunda’s childhood friend, served as Vice-President between 1967 and 1970.

President Michael Sata on September 28, 2011 re-named the three airports after the three key freedom fighters.

It was during Mr Nkumbula’s presidency that ANC suffered a split in 1958.

The splinter group, the Zambian African National Congress (ZANC) was created and subsequently UNIP emerged, which on October 24, 1964 formed the first African government.

Mr Nkumbula accepted a coalition government of ANC and UNIP when the two parties and the United Federal Party for white settlers failed to individually have majority seats in the Legislative Council following the 1962 pre-independence elections.

In an exclusive interview at his residence Dr Kaunda said that he was impressed with the infrastructure development by President Michael Sata’s government.

Dr Kaunda, who has an artistic impression of the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in his sitting room, said he was happy that his first district governor in Lusaka Mr Sata has ascended to the presidency.

He said President Sata had gone back to what the United National Independence Party (UNIP) had started in terms of infrastructure development.

Apart from re-naming the three international airports after freedom fighters, President Sata’s government has embarked on works at both the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport and the Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport. Government has released US $ 25 million (about K 125 million) terminal upgrades at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport and the contractor is already on site.

President Sata’s government is also of the view of relocating the Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport to another location within Ndola.

Most of work in terms of airport upgrade has been done at Harry Mwaanga International Airport in Livingstone, Zambia’s tourist capital.

The National Airports Corporation Limited (NACL) has spent K 205 million (about US $ 40 million) to construct an international passenger terminal to bring the landing facility at Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula International Airport to international standard.

Of the K 205 million capital expenditure, NACL provided K 161.2 million (about US $ 31.5 million) while the remaining K 43.8 million (about US$ 8.5 million) was provided by the central government as bridge financing.

The new modern terminal, measuring 11, 077 sq m has a throughput of about 700, 000 passengers per annum, and 12 check-in counters.

Additionally, the old terminal sized 3, 230 sq m (34, 768 sq ft), also housing NACL offices, has a throughput of 250, 000 passengers and four check-in counters.

One remarkable aspect of the international terminal is that luggage is electronically sorted and conveyed inside mechanically.

Besides, the new facility has CCTV, modern central air conditioning system, electronic aertising spaces, fire alarm system and an electronic display of flights.

As the developing world is catching up in terms of electronic banking, designers of the new terminal ensured that it had banking bays to enable passengers have access to cash from Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).

In December 2013, Harry Mwaanga International Airport recorded 63, 127 passengers and has on average been posting an estimated 12, 000 passengers per month compared to 9, 000 per month previously.

The highest number of both domestic and international passengers through Harry Mwaanga International Airport in the past five years was in 2011 when the landing facility handled 205, 640 travellers.

That was followed by 2013 (the year Zambia and Zimbabwe co-hosted the 20th UNWTO General Assembly), when the number of passengers declined slightly by 4.9 per cent to 195, 500 travellers, with 2011 as the reference year.

In the past five years, the year 2009 had the least number of passenger at 153, 604 going through the Harry Mwaanga International Airport because of the global financial crisis, which affected aanced economies in Europe and USA.

People there decided to cut costs including expenses on leisure, which negatively affected the number of tourists to the Victoria Falls.

With the recovery of the economy in Europe and other developed parts of the world and increasing number of passengers from the Far East, the number of prospective travellers per year using the Harry Mwaanga International Airport may soon approach the 2011 figure of around 200,000.

Harry Mwaanga International Airport was constructed in 1950 primarily for the local market and was then known as Livingstone Airport, deriving its name from David Livingstone, the Scottish explorer, missionary and doctor.

Dr Livingstone explored much of Southern and Central Africa and on November 16, 1855 became the first European to view Mosi-oa-tunya (smoke that thunders) and renamed them Victoria Falls after the then reigning Queen of England.

As the airport was named after the Scottish explorer, his statue has been constructed in front of the old terminal now being used by local passengers and also houses the offices for NACL.

The statue has been molded in between that of Chuma and Susi, his faithful African aides.

Those Africans deserve to be remembered in artistic impressions, for they laboured to carry Dr Livingstone’s body on a hammock to the coast of the Indian Ocean in present-day Tanzania before it was shipped to Westminster Abbey for burial.

Now that that the former Livingstone Airport has been renamed after Mr Nkumbula, there is need for his statue to be constructed in front of the international terminal that already has his inscriptions of the new name.

Construction of the statues can be attended to the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka and the Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe Airport in Ndola to honour the country’s main freedom fighters.

President Sata should be commended for re-naming after the main freedom fighters because that was done long time ago in other parts of the country.

There is Oliver Tambo International Airport in South Africa and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya.

(The author is the first African correspondent for the Airports of the world magazine published in the UK)

Source : The Times of Zambia

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