A top Zimbabwe army general says the country’s economic collapse over the last decade could have triggered a military coup.
Air Force of Zimbabwe commander Air Marshal Perrence Shiri said the military takeover was only avoided because army officers were loyal and professional.
“We have all seen how in other countries military forces have caused destabilisation by either taking sides in a political conflict or taking power through military coups,” he told state media on Monday.
“To this end, I would like to commend the Air Force of Zimbabwe officers for their discipline and loyalty, which saw to it that economic challenges did not degenerate into a conflict.”
In 2008 soldiers disgruntled by long queues to withdraw cash from banks went on a rampage in Harare destroying property and assaulting bystanders.
Zimbabwe’s economic collapse blamed on a running political crisis was halted by the formation of a unity government between President Robert Mugabe and his long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai who became Prime Minister.
But the tension still persists and army generals insist they would not recognise Mr Tsvangirai if he beats President Mugabe in an election.
Air Marshal Shiri accused Western countries of trying to turn Zimbabweans against the veteran ruler by imposing sanctions on the country.
“I thank the officers for their resilience during these trying times that we have gone through. We have been exemplary,” he said.
“The illegal economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the United States of America, Britain and their allies were obviously aimed at hurting the ordinary citizens, reducing our capabilities and ultimately destabilising Zimbabwe.
“The economic hardships were aimed at reducing the quality of life of all citizens so that they can turn against the government.”
President Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980 and will stand for re-election in polls expected early next year.