Banana Trial Ends in Zimbabwe
Thursday, June 25, 1998
SUMMARY: The judge says it may take quite some time to peel away the layers of
evidence to get to the truth about the honored ex-president's relations with the men who
accuse him of sexual assault.
High Court Judge President Godfrey Chidyausiku reserved judgment and warned that it
could take him quite some time to reach a verdict as the trial of Zimbabwe's first
post-colonial President Canaan Banana for 11 counts of sexual assaults against nine other
men ended on June 23. Although there is a massive amount of testimony to consider after 17
busy days in the courtroom, Banana's defense of complete denial makes the judgment basicly
a question of who to believe: Banana and those close to him, or the nine alleged victims
and 13 other prosecution witnesses including high level police and military officers. Some
observers believe the final ruling will come in about a week. Convictions on the various
counts of indecent assault, attempted sodomy and sodomy could each lead to sentences of
two to seven years imprisonment. Banana remains free on bail.
In his closing arguments, defense attorney Chris Andersen, former Justice Minister in
colonial Rhodesia, repeated what he has said all along: that the prosecution's witnesses
against Banana are not credible, their testimony "totally inconsistent and fraught
with numerous discrepancies, contradictions and improbabilities." He declared it
"is very unique, to bring a person to trial on a multiplicity of charges with a
plethora of contradictions when there was never a criminal charge" against Banana
until last year, anywhere from two to 17 years after the alleged assaults occurred. Yet
several of the seven alleged victims who said they were attacked by Banana while employed
at the State House during his 1980 - 1987 ceremonial presidency had testified to reporting
the incidents to their superiors, some of whom testified in corroboration.
Covering all contingencies, Andersen asked that if the judge believes that Banana did
engage in homosexual acts, that he should find that if the acts were consensual, they
should not be criminal. Zimbabwe's sodomy law does not distinguish between coerced and
consensual acts, although prosecutors are less likely to bring consensual cases to trial
and judges tend to sentence them more lightly.
Director of public prosecutions Augustine Chikumira in his closing argument leaned
heavily on the notion that so many victims would not simply independently invent the often
similar stories they told. Chikumira described the testimony of several alleged victims
as, "There were drinks, the music, invitation to dance, the grip getting tighter and
then sexual advances." He felt that the testimony of each alleged victim supported
that of each of the others.
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