Zimbabwe’s first post-independence president and q key member of his country’s fight against colonial rule, Canaan Banana, has died.


Mr Banana, 67, died from cancer after treatment in South African hospitals.

In a televised announcement, President Robert Mugabe described Mr Banana as “a rare gift to our nation”.

He mentioned the former Methodist minister’s bravery standing up to white racism in the 1970s and his political activism early in his career.

“For that he paid the price and had to endure repeated years in prison and solitary confinement. He never balked; he never compromised right up to 1980, the year of our Independence,” Mr Mugabe said.

Mr Banana was president from 1980 to 1987, but fell into disrepute after he left office.

In 1988, Zimbabwe was gripped by his trial, in which a string of ex-employees claimed Mr Banana had sexually abused them.

Witnesses described how Mr Banana had invited them into his library where they played cards, had drinks and listened to music.

Mr Banana denied the charges as a “malicious vendetta” and politically motivated, but was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years jail, nine of which were suspended.

Canaan Banana was vice president of the African National Council (ANC) in Rhodesia, before becoming president when it was a largely ceremonial post.

In 1987 Mr Banana ceded the presidency to the then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, who became the executive leader.

Although he largely stayed out of the public limelight after leaving prison, Mr Banana became involved in public debates where he bemoaned the political crisis, which has wreaked Zimbabwe since the late 1990s.

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