Last edited: February 14, 2005

Ex-Zimbabwe Leader Ordered Jailed

Associated Press, May 29, 2000

By Angus Shaw

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s highest court ordered a former president to serve a year in jail on sex and assault convictions in a ruling Monday that said homosexual acts remain illegal here.

It was unclear when Canaan Banana, 64, would turn himself in to prison authorities, 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 part of his presidential staff. He had appealed the convictions, contending they violated privacy rights enshrined in Zimbabwe’s constitution.

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

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

The announcement upholds a lower court ruling that as president between 1980 and 1987, Banana abused his power to coerce male staff members into sex.

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 served alongside President Robert 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 whom he repeatedly forced to have sex with him shot and killed a police colleague who taunted him as "Banana’s wife." The bodyguard, Jefta 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, 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. He insists the case against him was influenced by political opponents.

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