"A coup on Mugabe was possible" – Airforce Commander

ZIMBABWE’S near-economic collapse over the last decade could easily have triggered a military coup, Air Force of Zimbabwe chief, Perrence Shiri has said.

Shiri said Zimbabwe only managed to avoid a coup which is common in similarly struggling countries because of the loyalty and professionalism of military officers.

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“We have all seen how in other countries military forces have caused destabilisation by either taking sides to a political conflict or taking power through military coups,” Shiri told The Herald.

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“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.”

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Millions of people were forced to leave the country in the last decade as the country’s economy tanked, buffeted by a multitude of problems that included world-record inflation levels, shortages of basic commodities and massive unemployment.

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President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party blamed sanctions imposed by the West for the crisis while critics insist poor management of the economy by his administration worsened the situation.

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But despite isolated riots in 2008 by a handful of soldiers frustrated with queuing to withdraw cash from Harare banks, the security services, which are seen as fiercely loyal to Mugabe, largely kept to their barracks.

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“I thank the officers for their resilience during these trying times that we have gone through. We have been exemplary,” Shiri said.

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“The illegal economic sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the United States of America, Britain and allies were obviously aimed at hurting the ordinary citizens, reducing our capabilities and ultimately destabilising Zimbabwe.

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“The economic hardships were aimed at reducing the quality of life of all citizens so that they can turn against the Government.”

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Shiri however, conceded that the sanctions, which included the suspension of military cooperation,adversely impacted the country’s security services, forcing them to be “innovative and creative” as they scrambled for spare parts and other key supplies.

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“Our officers, engineers in particular, had to be involved in research and development and as a result they have come up with a number of inventions which have helped us to avert the impact of the sanctions,” he said.

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“We are now capable of manufacturing some of the spares, which we normally import from the West and we can also do some of the spares supplied from countries in the East because of that technological breakthrough.”

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