November 11, 2003

Canaan Banana died

The first President of Zimbabwe, Reverend Canaan Sodindo Banana, has died after a long illness aged 67. “Dear Zimbabweans, I announce with deep sorry and sadness the death today of Comrade Canaan Sodindo Banana, the first president of our independent nation of Zimbabwe," said a message from President Robert Mugabe read on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.

Born in 1936, the former Methodist minister became ceremonial president when today’s Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980, a post he relinquished in 1987 when then-prime minister Mugabe became executive president. Zimbabwe was gripped by his trial in 1998, in which a string of ex-employees claimed he had sexually abused them. He denied the allegations, which he said were politically motivated, but he was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years jail, nine of which were suspended.

Banana, also a former professor of theology and diplomat, was touted as a possible broker in 2002 peace talks between Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change which fell apart when MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai launched a court appeal against Mugabe's controversial victory in March 2002 presidential elections. He leaves four adult children and a wife with whom he separated in 2000. (The Herald, Harare / BBC London)

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