Zimbabwes Bananas Appeal Fails
SUMMARY: Will the countrys first post-colonial President show up to serve his
time now that his conviction for sexually assaulting nine men has been upheld?
Zimbabwes first post-colonial President Canaan Banana lost an appeal of his 1999
conviction and sentence for eleven counts of sexual harassment and sexual assaults against
nine men; the countrys Supreme Court rejected the appeal on May 29 by a 3 - 2 vote.
One basis for his appeal was that the sex charges violate privacy rights under
Zimbabwes constitution, and the question of whether to strike down the nations
sodomy law divided the justices, with the majority convinced the law should stand in
recognition of prevailing social attitudes.
Bananas was hardly a test case for consensual acts, however, since most of the
incidents occurred during his 1980 - 1987 tenure as President against lower level staff
serving under him. Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay described Bananas use of "his
immense superiority of status to beat down the resistance of a young and inexperienced
complainant," chief victim former bodyguard Jefta Dube, as "a horrifying
tale"; other victims feared arrest or even execution for rejecting the
Presidents advances. "The offenses committed were disturbing and serious,"
the court said. Before the story of Bananas assaults against Dube broke during the
latters trial for murder in early 1997, Banana was a respected African international
statesman, an ordained minister and head of the religion department at the University of
Zimbabwe, as well as for more than three decades a ZANU-PF party compatriot of notoriously
homophobic current President Robert Mugabe. Banana, 64, a married father of four, has
flatly denied all the charges throughout, claiming a conspiracy to silence him.
Dube had lodged complaints with his superiors about Bananas advances and begged
for a transfer out of the State House, but because of the Presidents power it was
more than three years before he was allowed to leave. In the most serious of Dubes
allegations, Banana had drugged Dubes drink in order to rape him anally while he was
unconscious. Dube fell into alcoholism and drug abuse and his marriage broke up. Dube
later shot dead a fellow police constable who teased him for being "Bananas
In an unusual move, the government-controlled media were allowed to report the
judges findings at the end of Dubes trial in February 1997, where the judge
read at length from Dubes testimony before sentencing him to ten years in prison.
That judge ordered prosecutors to investigate the allegations against Banana, and
reportedly more victims flocked to police stations representing every area of
Bananas life, including his youth soccer team. All but one of the cases chosen for
prosecution dated back to Bananas ceremonial Presidency, when Mugabe already held
the reins of power in the role of Prime Minister. (When the Presidency was redefined as a
powerful executive, Mugabe took it over in 1987.) Bananas trial was reported with a
level of tabloid salaciousness that Zimbabwe had never seen before.
Banana was given a rather unusual sentence in December 1998 in which he was required to
serve only one year in jail if he paid reparations to Dube of Z$250,000 (US$6,600); nine
more years were suspended. That sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court. There is some
doubt as to whether Banana will present himself to authorities as required; he previously
broke house arrest to secretly visit several other southern African countries in search of
political support. He also suffers from health problems which have required him to leave
the country for treatment on several occasions since his arrest.
Banana could still be pardoned by Mugabe, who has never publicly commented on the case.
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