Ex-President Flees Zimbabwe
High Court finds Canaan Banana guilty of charges of sodomy. He escapes to
Knight Ridder, November 27, 1998
By Neely Tucker, Knight Ridder Newspapers
HARARE, ZIMBABWE Former Zimbabwean President Canaan Banana has
fled the country without his passport to escape his conviction yesterday of 11 counts of
sodomy, attempted sodomy and indecent assault by Zimbabwes highest court.
In the most sensational trial involving homosexuality in modern African history, High
Court Judge Godfrey Chidyausiku confiscated Bananas bail and issued an arrest
warrant for the 63-year-old father of four and renowned Methodist theologian.
"The former president is a fugitive from justice, he has fled the country to
escape punishment for his crimes," said chief prosecutor Augustine Chikumira.
"We have an extradition treaty with Botswana, he has been charged with contempt of
court and we will vigorously pursue his return to this country."
Botswana officials confirmed Banana was in the country but made no further comment. The
prosecutor said Banana would seek political asylum. But the Botswana office of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said it has not heard from the former president,
according to Ndapiwa Fire, the agencys administrative officer.
"I cant see the logic in asking for political asylum from a gay sex
conviction in Botswana, which is almost as homophobic as Zimbabwe," said Keith
Goddard, director of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, a vocal gay-rights support group.
"But Bananas case has always been more about abuse of power and rape than about
Bananas flight is another dramatic turn in an 18-month soap opera that has
riveted the country and drawn attention from gay-rights activists around the world.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, once a close friend of Banana, has stirred
international controversy by calling homosexuals "lower than dogs and pigs" and
by repeatedly going out of his way to antagonize gays.
In a news conference at the World Economic Forum this year, Mugabe said all Zimbabwean
citizens enjoy equal protection under the law, "except for gays, of course."
Banana consistently denied charges that he coerced bodyguards, gardeners and cooks into
sexual relations while acting as ceremonial president of the country in 1980-1987.
Those denials were shattered yesterday, when Judge Chidyausiku said in a 75-page
judgment that Banana was guilty of all counts of homosexual activity brought against him
by 11 men.
"The court finds the accused guilty on all 11 charges," Chidyausiku told a
Each count of sodomy, whether forced or consensual, can carry up to a 10-year sentence,
though far lighter sentences are usually imposed.
Chidyausiku delayed sentencing until Dec. 10 because of Bananas absence.
Bananas wife, Janet, told reporters she thought her husband was in Bulawayo,
Zimbabwes second-largest city.
"I havent talked to him in weeks and was expecting to see him in court this
morning," said Chris Andersen, Bananas lead attorney.
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