Zimbabwes Banana Found Guilty
Associated Press, November 26, 1998
By Angus Shaw
HARARE, ZimbabweFormer President Canaan Banana was convicted
Thursday of 11 counts of sodomy and homosexual assault, and prosecutors confirmed he had
fled the country.
Banana, a Methodist minister, was requesting political asylum in neighboring Botswana
after leaving the country Nov. 17 ahead of the verdict, said Chief Prosecutor Augustine
Chikumira. He said the government will seek Bananas extradition.
The guilty verdict on all counts came after a three-week trial in June. Banana faces an
estimated maximum sentence of 22 years in prison at sentencing Dec. 10.
Judge Godfrey Chidyausiku issued an arrest warrant for Banana and ordered his bail
revoked. Banana had been free on bail of 20,000 Zimbabwe dollars (dlrs 600), and had
surrendered his passport and the deed to his mansion in the exclusive Mount Pleasant
suburb of the capital Harare.
The judge urged defense lawyer Chris Andersen to try to persuade Banana to return to
Zimbabwe for sentencing.
The case has deeply embarrassed President Robert Mugabe, who insists homosexuality is
foreign to African culture and was brought to the continent from the West. He has launched
an outspoken campaign against homosexuality, describing same-sex partners as "lower
than pigs and dogs."
The stance in southern Africa is not unusual. Government officials of nearby Namibia
and Zambia have made similar anti-gay statements. South Africa has bucked the trend and
recently decriminalized gay sex.
The offenses attributed to Banana mostly involved bodyguards, a cook and a gardener on
his presidential staff. They allegedly occurred when he was president after independence
in 1980 until 1987.
Prosecutors alleged Banana used his authority as the nations titular president to
force the individuals into homosexual acts.
In his court defense in June, Banana said the charges were an attempt to destroy his
character and political standing amid rumors he was planning a political comeback.
Bananas presidency was a ceremonial post after the former British colony of
Rhodesia became independent Zimbabwe. He was the constitutional head of Zimbabwe when
Mugabe, the nations only political ruler, was prime minister.
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