The opening comes as the country prepares to mark 50 days to the kick off of the biggest sporting event in the world.
“Our vision of a truly international airport has been realised …we have every reason to celebrate achievements such as the completion of the extension of this airport as it is a significant milestone,” Zuma said on Tuesday.
The revamped OR Tambo airport is a culmination of a decade of work following a decision by Cabinet in 2005 to approve a R20 billion funding for the expansion of airport infrastructure across the country.
“We are now starting to see the results of that investment,” Zuma said, adding that the economic spin offs of the World Cup and the impact of job creation have been remarkable.
The CTB will place OR Tambo International as a world class African airport capable of managing a passenger capacity of 28 million.
Other milestones at the airport include the completion of a multi-storey parkade for 5200 vehicles, bringing the total number of parking bays in and around the airport to 17 500.
There are also additional storage tanks capable of holding 60 million litres of fuel while the domestic and international terminals are now linked to improve the passenger experience and orientation.
“You can see that when we say we are ready for the tournament it is not just rhetoric, we mean what we are saying,” quipped Zuma.
He said it was not a coincidence that Africa’s biggest and busiest airport has been named after Oliver Tambo, leader of the African National Congress until 1993.
“Oliver Tambo was a true international statesman with the highest regard for the values of human dignity and compassion”.
With the name change, government sought not only to immortalise Tambo but also to celebrate his sacrifice and commitment to the universal values of equality and freedom, Zuma said.
Over the years, government has emphasised the need for an integrated transport service, he said. “With the completion of the Gautrain mass rapid transport route from the airport to Sandton, we are confident we will move all our visitors in safety and control once they land”.
While all airports across the country are expected to operate 24 hours a day, Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele emphasised that only domestic airlines will be allowed to operate locally.
“Only when we feel that the domestic airlines have been exhausted will we consider allowing international carriers to fly domestically,” Ndebele said.
Ndebele will later in the day also unveil his department’s intergraded transport programme that will focus on ensuring that the thousands of soccer fans - both local and international - are able to move with ease to and from different venues across the country. – BuaNews