Canaan Banana: The Political History of a Great Statesman – His son tells it all!

Letting go of painful memories from the past, should mean letting go of ones-self.

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In my case perhaps that of my family members too, being related to a prominent figure in society [former President of Zimbabwe] now only remembered for one negative allegation from what may have been a politically motivated creation made to smear his career achievements, it becomes even more difficult to let go of the past as members of the public continually cherry pick on that one event to make examples of various public debates.

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My PhotoThe fact that fight for and against Gay Rights has also become a global topic of debate has not made any attempts to forget the past any easier. I personally asked him a year before he died of cancer, when he came for a medical check-up in the U.K about the whole episode of the charges that were levelled against him and he told me that ‘politics is a dirty game, if ever you decide to play do not expect any fairness as there will always be dirty politicians trying to rub some dirt on you so that they can continue manipulating the people’s trust for their own selfish ends.

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I (Nathan Banana in picture) asked him to be more specific as the statement was more like an analogy than a direct response; he then told me he suspected that because of the close nature of the relationship he had developed with the MDC leader Morgan Tswangirai, the CIO personnel who normally accompanied him may have made some false reports to some ZANU PF officials and his relationship with the opposition was not being taken kindly by his former colleagues in ZANU PF.

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He said that his reasons for continually engaging all political players in Zimbabwe was just to try and get another opportunity to bring them to discuss a more peaceful way forward like he had done in the 1987 Unity agreement. Canaan Banana’s name was put forward as a possible broker in peace talks between Mugabe and the MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, but the Zanu-PF leader pulled out when Tsvangirai launched a court challenge to Mugabe’s disputed victory in the March 2002 presidential elections.

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I had personally known Jefta Dube during the time he worked at State House and played as a midfielder for Tornados Football Club, a lot of other officials and football players, not once did I hear of any stories related to what came out almost 12 years after Banana had left Office. As Canaan Banana was a God fearing person and my dad, I trusted whatever he told me as the reason for he alleged charges and sentence. Looking from outside inside and based from some statements from the court case, it is possible however that he may have had consensual relationships with most of those who later came forward to claim compensation for the various alleged abuses but it’s difficult to conclusively state so as he personally denied all allegations in court. What remains is people will always make their own judgements based on the information they read from various public authors; well this is the version from a family member who was raised by this great son of the soil.

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So let’s look at the good things people have forgotten about the first President of Zimbabwe. Firstly not many Zimbabweans know that Mugabe was once a Prime Minister and Canaan Banana the President of Zimbabwe, the Presidents role was largely ceremonial with the Prime Minister being the head of government and making most of the important governance decisions occasionally consulting the President for the endorsement of new laws. Canaan Banana accepted the position of President after the late Joshua M Nkomo had turned it down as an ineffective position in the new government. Nkomo was also not very happy with the Home Affairs portfolio that he was given for a short period of time, before being moved to Ministry of Public Service and then later became Minister without Portfolio before being dropped in a cabinet reshuffle in 1982.

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The Patriotic Front alliance for national unity collapsed and attempts to revive it through the government of national unity floundered after the discovery of arms caches at properties owned by ZAPU. All ZAPU members were expelled from government. The rift between these two parties directly led to the Gukurahundi killings in Matabeleland in which thousands of innocent lives were lost, thousands were raped, maimed, hundreds detained and yet others jailed for collaborating with dissidents. This became a national tragedy.

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Let me point out at this stage the President at the time Canaan Banana may have been informed about operations in Matabeleland but did not give any orders or receive any detailed operational activities from the commanders the Zimbabwean Army, they reported directly to the head of government in consultation with the Minister of Defence. Banana had no idea of the barbaric levels being perpetrated by army until he was informed by relatives who had been directly affected by the operations. The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, the Catholic Bishops Conference, Amnesty International and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, all pointed out that the security forces had abused their powers in operations in Matabeleland.

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Canaan Banana is credited by all sides with having brokered peace talks which brought about the merger of Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu into Mugabe’s Zanu-PF. The unity accord of 1987 brought peace to Matabeleland. Canaan Banana then led the World Council of Churches [WCC], Eminent Church persons on sanctions against South Africa in January 1989 and was also co-chairman of the UN Panel of Eminent Persons conducting public hearings on the operations of transnational corporations in South Africa in September 1989. He later became the Organisation of African Unity’s special envoy to civil war-torn Liberia.

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Outside of the political roles, Canaan Banana was a people leader who spent most of his time amongst members of various Zimbabwean communities. He became known as Zimbabwe’s number one Soccer Fan because of his love for the sport. Sadly some of our international football heroes never mention his name as reasons behind their success. Peter Ndlovu’s move to Coventry City in England was engineered by the late former President so was Benjani Mwariwari’s move to International Football from the University of Zimbabwe where Canaan Banana linked him to his close friend Jomo Sono of South Africa. Many Zimbabwean players can testify that they got their opportunities to play professional football outside Zimbabwe through this great lover of football.

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In the early 80’s Canaan Banana and several other political leaders purchased farms from fleeing former Rhodesian farmers, the move was criticised as not conforming to socialist policy in parliament and officials were asked to sell the newly acquired assets. Canaan Banana decided to donate his farm to government, before doing so he converted the farm into an Agricultural College “Kushinga Phikelela”. Apparently it is now called Kushinga Phikelela Polytechnic with little being mentioned about the founder.

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Former President Canaan Banana and his family were excluded from the amended Presidential Bill of 1992 that covers benefits for a retired President and his family. Up to this day the Banana Estate still open as there are outstanding amounts that were owed to the former President in terms of back dated pay due to the neglected retirement benefits for the former President and his family.

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The former First Lady Janet Banana has not been treated as a respectable member of the Zimbabwean society from such a high office, compared to her neighbours Zimbabwe has not been fair in the treatment and welfare of individuals who served in high office and fought for the independence of Zimbabwe. One sometimes wonder’s if it’s a tribal issues that Banana was from the Ndebele clan or perhaps all these benefits currently afforded to the families of former Vice Presidents are based on a special criteria. Is it because of the alleged offence that such constitutional rights had to be removed?

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Canaan Banana is the only Zimbabwean President to resign from his official position in government and did not use his position to enrich himself and his family.

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This is the story of a true and sincere patriot of Zimbabwe, now only remembered for one alleged offence that he became the first to be ever charged for in the history of Zimbabwe. I plead to Zimbabweans and Africans to respect the dead. – Nathanbanana.blogspot.co.uk

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