His Majesty the King, Isilo Samabandla,

Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Zweli Mkhize,

Minister Transport S`bu Ndebele,

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Jeff Radebe,

MEC for Transport and Community Safety and Liaison Willies Mchunu,

MEC for Economic Development and Tourism Mr Mike Mabuyakhulu,

Mayor of eThekwini, Councillor Obed Mlaba,

Umntwana wakwaPhindangene, Dr. M.G. Buthelezi,

Members of Parliament and the Provincial Legislature,

Amakhosi, religious leaders,

Distinguished Guests,

Today marks a historic moment in the life of our country, of the region north of Durban and the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

After many years of planning and hard work, we are delighted to get together today to open the King Shaka International Airport.

It is a special honour for me in particular to officiate at this occasion, as tomorrow we mark the first anniversary since the inauguration of the new administration.

I feel a sense of fulfillment and personal joy on this occasion, as I was part of the provincial government as MEC for Economic Affairs and Tourism, when the conceptualisation of this magnificent project began!

Therefore, let me thank all of you for a wonderful inauguration anniversary gift!

Ladies and gentlemen,

The defining feature of our administration, is to change the way government works and to change the way the country works. We are celebrating that ethos with this launch today.

This project has set new benchmarks as far as global infrastructure is concerned.

Not only was the construction of the project completed in the record time of three years. It also involved the relocation of both the cargo and passenger businesses, from the old airport to these new facilities, in one overnight operational switch.

This smooth, seamless transition must surely bear testimony once again to the skills and capability we have as a country. We are setting new global standards in the delivery of large scale infrastructure projects.

We must congratulate our country for such expertise and we must not be shy to boast about it.

We are changing the way South Africa works!

Your Majesty,

Distinguished guests,

The launch of this airport could not have occurred at a better time.

In less than 35 days, South Africa will experience its largest waves of aviation traffic in its history, when the 2010 FIFA World Cup begins.

This airport is being launched right on time to receive this international traffic.

We welcome the fact that the airport is also going to be a critical diversion facility for OR Tambo International should this be necessary.

We are also thrilled by the fact that we are able to present the World Cup in a South Africa that is going through a huge building and reconstruction phase.

Our infrastructure investment programme is doing wonders for the country economically and socially.

And as we mark the first anniversary of the fourth democratic administration, we can proudly say that the economic kingdom is firmly within our grasp.

You will recall that at the height of the recession last year, the new Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, announced to our people and to the world that we would not cut back on our infrastructure programme.

The response of the markets was clear. Money poured into South Africa - into our stocks and bonds, and, whether we liked it or not, our currency strengthened.

South Africa has become a place to invest in, in times of stress. This is a real turn-around from the gloomy 1990s!

Fifteen years ago, every time there was a crisis in Mexico, Indonesia, Russia or Brazil, money would pour out of South Africa. Now, investors turn towards South Africa in times of uncertainty.

We must come to terms with this positive reality. We are rebuilding South Africa. Our quality of life and our competitiveness are improving.

This is not only through our infrastructure, but also through investments in our health and education systems and others.

We have every reason to be optimistic about the future of our country.

Your Majesty,

Distinguished guests,

There has never been any doubt in my mind that this airport was the missing piece of the puzzle to enable growth and development in this region and for our country.

More than 80% of our national economy is housed in the three cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.

Durban, however, was the only city that lacked the aviation infrastructure that was able to accommodate long haul international flights.

This served as a structural barrier to its growth and development, in capturing the international tourism and air cargo markets.

Government`s strategic national economic objectives seek to establish over time, the country`s first sea and air multi-modal platform that serves not only South Africa but the Southern African Development Community.

The port of Durban is already the country`s biggest container port, serving more than 50 international destinations. The port of Richards Bay serves as the largest bulk port in the country.

Both these seaports are linked to the Dube TradePort and King Shaka International by road and in the future by rail.

This transportation platform will be well placed going forward, to serve our country, as we increase our trade and exports globally and with Southern Africa`s regional markets.

In this regard, government at national, provincial and local levels, are working together in a process that will put forward the best strategic investment option for the country.

In addition, our trade strategy seeks greater integration with countries of the south. These new markets such as India and south East Asia offer new opportunities for growth in trade, business and tourism.

The new Airport and the Dube TradePort will be well positioned to capture these new air services going forward.

At a provincial and local government level now is the time to encourage new investments in tourism products that are competitively priced and attractive for foreign visitors.

The World Cup offers us the best opportunity to welcome foreign visitors and ensure that they come back to enjoy what our country has to offer.

It is the best time ever to launch such a project, and market it to the world at large.

Your Majesty,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Aviation infrastructure presents key challenges around carbon footprints particularly with respect to global climate change.

South Africa, as you know, will be hosting the World Climate Change Summit next year. The Dube TradePort and King Shaka International Airport have the opportunity to develop the first green tradeport in the world.

We have the opportunity to develop the world`s first green aerotropolis, a purpose built airport city, with unparalleled opportunities for decent jobs, investment and trade.

Your Majesty,

Distinguished guests,

The sculpture of King Shaka that dominates the public park deserves a special mention.

This is not only because of its majestic presence, but also because of the interpretation of the essence of the founder of the Zulu nation.

For too long, we have allowed the historical image of King Shaka to be viewed within the colonial mindset.

King Shaka was a strategic thinker, able to position the African philosophy around the idea of nationhood.

From this position he entered into a set of dynamic relationships with the British colonial settler community.

The airport is therefore very appropriately named after this master strategist and pioneer.

I also want to point out that this site, and the wider region, is a place where great South African men and women walked and lived over the centuries.

Not far from here in the Inanda Magisterial District, is the home of John Langalibalele Dube, the founding President of the South African National Congress.

In this regard, I would like to acknowledge the presence of his family at this occasion.

Further, to the north is the home of Inkosi Albert Luthuli, a former President-General of the ANC and first South African Nobel peace prize winner.

Mohandas Ghandi also travelled and lived in these parts, often addressing the plight of the indentured Indian and African labourers.

I was happy to hear that the graves of indentured Indian and African labourers which were found on the site in the course of the construction process, have been preserved through the establishment of a Memorial Garden at the Dube TradePort Agrizone.

The Indian tradition of cremation was not allowed by the Apartheid government.

You will recall also ladies and gentlemen, that this year we mark 150 years of the settlement of Indian indentured labourers.

Let us remember the blood, sweat and tears they shed and sacrifices they made to secure a future in our country.

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me congratulate the Premier and all the political leadership in KwaZulu-Natal from all political parties for standing firm over the years in their unequivocal support for the building of King Shaka International Airport and this airport city as a whole.

Your display of unshakable unity in purpose has yielded the most impressive world class facilities that will benefit generations to come.

I also want to thank all the 8 000 workers who built this facility. We are proud of your achievements, you can hold your heads up high.

Your Majesty, Ministers, Premier, MECs, distinguished guests,

It is my honour and privilege to declare the King Shaka International Airport and the Dube Tradeport officially open.

I thank you!