Last edited: February 14, 2005

Ex-President Jailed in Zimbabwe

Associated Press, May 29, 2000

By Angus Shaw

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Former President Canaan Banana lost an appeal today of his conviction on sexual assault charges and gay sex offenses and was ordered to serve a year in jail.

Banana, 64, was expected to report to prison later today, said his lawyer, Josephine Bennett.

Banana was convicted in 1999 of 11 counts of sodomy and abusing his power to sexually assault and carry out "unnatural acts" with men, most of whom were on his presidential staff.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Zimbabwe. Banana had appealed the convictions, contending they violated privacy rights enshrined in Zimbabwe’s constitution.

The Supreme Court, Zimbabwe’s highest judicial body, announced today it would uphold a High Court ruling that as titular president between 1980 and 1987 Banana abused his power to coerce male staff members into sex.

Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay said Banana used "his immense superiority of status to beat down the resistance of a young and inexperienced" police bodyguard whose account of sexual assaults by Banana were "a horrifying tale."

Other staff members, including a cook and a gardener at his official residence, feared Banana would have them arrested and even shot if they rejected his advances, the judge said.

Banana was ordered to serve a year in jail, with a second year suspended.

Banana, a veteran of President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party, could ask for clemency, but it was unclear whether he would do so, Bennett said.

Banana served alongside Mugabe, who was then prime minister, as Zimbabwe’s ceremonial president after independence in 1980. Mugabe became executive president in 1987, abolishing Banana’s ceremonial post.

Banana was arrested after a former police bodyguard, Jefta Dube, whom he repeatedly forced to have sex with him, shot dead a police colleague who taunted him as "Banana’s wife." Dube was jailed for 10 years for that murder.

Banana’s trial in 1998 rocked the government and Mugabe, who has harshly condemned homosexuals, calling them "lower than pigs and dogs."

Banana insists the case against him was influenced by political opponents.

Banana, a Methodist minister, professor of theology and former diplomat, mediated in an armed rebellion in Zimbabwe in the early 1980s and in the Liberian civil war.

Zimbabwe’s five Supreme Court judges were divided over whether consensual sodomy by homosexuals should remain illegal, Gubbay said.

Three of the judges took into account conservative African attitudes toward homosexuality and ruled the law should remain in effect, he said.

[Home] [News] [Zimbabwe]