The South African Cabinet approved the transfer of international airport status from the Pilanesberg to the Mafikeng airport at its meeting on Wednesday.

This airport is situated five kilometres west of Mmabatho in the North West province and is about 350 km west of the OR Tambo International Airport.

The move was reportedly in line with a request from the provincial government as well as a recommendation from the Airport Coordinating Committee.

During a briefing on Thursday, government spokesperson Themba Maseko said the transfer would facilitate regional market integration within the planned industrial development zone (IDZ), which was being established alongside the Mafikeng airport.

It is understood that the provincial authorities were also working with the Department of Trade and Industry to finalise the process of awarding the area IDZ status. Should it succeed, an industrial estate, linked to the airport and embracing so-called customs-secure-area status, would be promoted as an alternative investment site for export manufacturing.

An agreement had reportedly already been signed for a so-called Mineral Beneficiation Park, involving an investment of around R60-million.

Also envisaged was an agroprocessing cluster, which could incorporate a biofuels manufacturing component, as well as a high-tech manufacturing cluster.

The zone was operated by the Mafikeng Industrial Development Zone Company, which was established in 2001 and was wholly owned by the North West provincial government through the Provincial Department of Economic Development.