Army generals are empowered by the Constitution to make political statements, especially in cases where aspiring leaders do not recognise the value of the liberation struggle, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Deputy Minister Supa Mandiwanzira has said.Addressing senior members of the uniformed forces at Zimbabwe Staff College during a debate on the media and national interest yesterday, Cde Mandiwanzira said the recognition and respect of the liberation struggle was one of the country's founding values as enshrined in the Constitution.
He was responding to Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube who had said it was unconstitutional for the army to say it could not support anyone without liberation war credentials.
"Under the new Constitution, it is right to do so," he said.
"In fact, under the new Constitution the military can stand up and say we will not recognise you because the Constitution gives that responsibility," said Cde Mandiwanzira.
"Because it is now in the Constitution, that it is a founding value of this country that recognition and respect of the liberation struggle is constitutional, that means you must respect that.
"Now, if you are a leader wanting to take the highest office in the land and you are renowned for saying statements like dzorererai nyika kwangayakasungirirwa tinoisunungurawo you are not respecting the value of the liberation struggle.
"So the army has the right to say no we will not recognise you because what you are doing is unconstitutional."
Cde Mandiwanzira bemoaned the polarisation which exist in the country's media, saying his ministry would appoint a task force to look into the challenges facing the media and come up with recommendations.
He said the Western media always rallied behind their countries, especially in times of war giving an example of the United States and Britain's invasion of Iraq.
He said during that time, the media from the two countries were banned from showing images of body bags carrying the country's soldiers who would have died in Iraq and they complied.
Cde Mandiwanzira said if a similar order was to be made in Zimbabwe, there would be a major outcry.
Speaking at the same occasion, Zimpapers group chief executive officer Mr Justin Mutasa said: "Our sense of the national interest starts with our sense of history, that is the history of the liberation struggle -- the first, second chimurenga's.
This is how we derive our identity as a company and as Zimbabweans.
"The national interest is the pursuit of that which benefits the State and the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe.
"It encompasses our physical safety and personal security; economic well being and future prosperity; our values, beliefs and culture."
Mr Mutasa said national interest was interest that is in favour of the country, adding that the political party which pronounces itself clearly gets Zimpapers support.
ZBC acting chief executive Allan Chiweshe said most African countries' national interest was derived from the Constitution and in Zimbabwe it was being derived from the liberation struggle.
He said the public media had a role to play in disseminating information supporting Government developmental initiatives.
"Public media has an important role in national processes as it has an authoritative voice and the widest reach, therefore, it is the most effective tool in reaching out and promoting national interest whether political, economic or social," he said.
Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube said the role of the media had not gained enough attention from Africa's leaders and decision makers as they tended to view private media as if it was an enemy of the State.
He, however, said he was encouraged that Zimbabweans were reaching out beyond the comfort of their institutions.
"Yes, elections will always be important and robust, but afterwards we have to attend to the crucial business of shaping the country that we want our children to inherit," he said.
Modus Publications chief executive Mr Jacob Chisese said the issue of national interest started with polarisation.
"I am happy that the new Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services has quickly realised that we have a major problem and we have to quickly tackle that problem," he said.