Last edited: February 14, 2005

Dube Continues in Banana Trial

PlanetOut, Thursday June 4, 1998

Summary: Testimony from the witness who started it all continues, and there are some indications that the defense will cut the denials and instead attack Zimbabwe's sodomy law.

As Zimbabwe's first post-colonial president Canaan Banana faces charges on 11 counts of sexual assaults against other men, testimony from alleged victim Jefta Dube that began on the first day of the trial continued into the fourth day June 4. Dube, an aide de camp in the State House during Banana's 1980's presidency, was the first to publicly raise allegations against Banana, in the course of his own trial last year for shooting to death a fellow police constable who taunted him as "wife of Banana." Dube also has a civil lawsuit pending against Banana; the criminal trial is expected to last a month.

Having described in detail the sexual activities Banana forced him to engage in, Dube went on to tell of his efforts to be transferred to a different job posting in order to escape. On June 3, Dube had testified about reporting to a deputy police commissioner and a senior assistant police commissioner, saying, "They told me there was nothing they could do." He also said he was forced to sign an admission to complaints by Banana that he was spending his sleeping hours away from the State House and bringing girlfriends into it. On June 4, he testified that, "I had realized that my life was in danger and this [transfer] was one of the ways and means to get away from the accused." After his reports to his superiors in the police force proved fruitless during three years of sexual servitude, Dube finally found help from Simon Muzenda, who was Zimbabwe's deputy prime minister at the time and now serves as its vice president. Muzenda arranged for Dube's transfer out of the State House, after asking Dube to write up his allegations against Banana. Muzenda himself is also scheduled as one of the prosecution's 40 witnesses, as are two former police commissioners from the time of Dube's allegations.

Dube resisted Banana's first friendly advances, but on later occasions Dube was drugged and raped by Banana and jailed for three days for rejecting him; the detention was justified by Banana's complaint that Dube had failed to answer the phone, and Dube was forced to sign an admission of guilt on that charge. Dube then became compliant. Under questioning by Banana's attorney Chris Andersen, Dube said, "I did not resist because I'd been told I would be discharged. What was pre-occupying my mind was my job. I did not exhibit my displeasure although I inside I felt it. If you want to know what was in my mind, I was thinking, 'he must know that I don't want this.'"

Andersen's exploration as to whether Banana might have mistaken Dube's compliance for consent was the first indication of a defense strategy other than outright denial. Previously Andersen had flatly accused Dube of lying, and before the trial Banana himself had waxed eloquent in describing all the allegations against him as "`a mortuary of pathological lies and a malicious vendetta of vilification and character assassination." However, two African news sources have reported that Andersen, who had served as the then white-dominated Rhodesia's Minister of Justice before that nation won independence, would claim that any sexual intimacy with Banana by the various victims had been consensual rather than forced. Those sources had further said that Andersen would challenge Zimbabwe's sodomy law as a violation of constitutional guarantees of privacy and gender equality (since the law only applies to sex between men).

That would be a startling approach in the nation whose President Robert Mugabe (who was Prime Minister during Banana's presidency, when the latter role was largely ceremonial) has built an international reputation for unabashed verbal gay-bashing -- so much so that Topeka, Kansas anti-gay activist Fred Phelps at his church flies the Zimbabwe flag above the U.S. flag (a violation of U.S. rules for flag display). Mugabe and Banana are both ZANU-PF party members dating back to before independence, but Mugabe has stood aside and remained silent regarding Banana's situation since the story broke in early 1997.

On June 3, the court acted to replace the interpreter responsible for translating Dube's Shona vernacular, who both defense and prosecution felt was doing an inadequate job. "The court had noted from the beginning ... that the interpretation left a lot to be desired. As cross-examination progressed it became apparent that the record was being compromised by the inaccurate interpretation," said Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku. But even the senior translator brought in to handle the case had some difficulties, creating a lighter moment in the somber trial atmosphere. As Andersen went over with Dube the latter's description of first being invited to dinner with Banana and his family at the State House in 1983, seeking details of the meal which Dube could not always supply, one question was "Did they say grace?" The interpreter took this as a reference not to a prayer but to President Mugabe's wife, Grace, so the translation into Shona came out "Did they say anything about Grace?" This sent the crowded courtroom into gales of laughter, which the interpreter joined when the judge pointed out her error.

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