North West economy will ‘stall without airport’

Various business people are urging the North West provincial government to resuscitate the Mafikeng International Airport.

The flights between the Mahikeng and Pilanesberg airports were grounded in 2018, after a whistle-blower, who happened to be one of the owners of management company Koreneka, appointed by SA Express, alleged corruption and money laundering at SA Express.

The matter was reported to law enforcement agencies and featured extensively in the state capture report, and as some highly placed politicians were “fingered” for wrongdoing.

The South African Civil Aviation Authority also downgraded the airport from a category 5 to a category 2 aerodrome after it was declared unsafe during the previous audits.

Now, billionaire Dr Mike Nkuna, who built the Morena mall in Extension 39 in Mahikeng, has urged the provincial government to revive the airport to lure investors back.

“We are committed to developing the North West province, and my heart was a bit sore when I flew in here. I realised that the airport that used to be beautiful is actually falling apart but I said, you know, as we move in and start talking to government or relevant people, we will be able to talk to them and say resuscitate the airport.

“If you want to invite investors without an airport, you won’t be able to. So, that’s what we want to do and we are happy to partner with you.”

Nkuna further said if the office of premier Bushy Maape or the municipality invites them to work together, they will not hesitate. He added that in life one can have a
vision, but if you do not have the right people around you, the vision won’t materialise.

“I want to remind you, Mr Premier, what made the former homeland, Bophuthatswana flourish and it’s homework you have to work on. Those people said if we want to separate blacks to remain where they are, let’s create some tax incentives. So, let’s invite investors, and give them some tax incentives for 15 years,” he said.

Nkuna said if that had never happened, Sun City would not have been built.

“When the ANC-led government inherited this country in 1994, it inherited it with bulk infrastructure.

But when we took over, we were excited that we attained freedom and forgot that freedom without maintaining it will perish.”

Meanwhile, the North West department of community safety and transport management spokesperson, Boitshoko Moremi said: “The department has been making concerted efforts to address the non-compliances amid limited budget. It should be remembered that the civil aviation industry is highly regulated and that it requires a sufficient budget to run the airport, while addressing all audit queries raised by the auditor.

“It is unfortunate that in the province the airports remain underfunded and not given the support they deserve. According to the white paper on airspace and aerodromes of 1998, as well as the white paper on national civil aviation policy of 2017, the provincial and local spheres of government should not try to be in the business of running the airport(s) unless there are social and or economic benefits thereto.”

Moremi said the department has been inundated with requests from investors, but there is a contractual dispute between the service provider and the department. She said it is unfortunate that the department cannot commit due to the Roucomm Systems contract.

“The department has therefore decided to review the contract in question or legally set the contract aside, a decision which is contested by Roucomm Systems and might take some time to conclude,” Moremi said.

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