Late widow suffers ex-President Canaan Banana sins
By Nkosana Dlamini
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has denied late former First Lady, Janet Banana national heroine status in signs the widow of the country’s founding President could have suffered collateral damage for her husband’s seemingly unforgivable sins.
Mnangagwa announced in a Thursday condolence message following Mrs Banana’s death in Bulawayo earlier in the day that she will be accorded a State assisted funeral.
“I have directed that the late former First Lady be accorded a State assisted funeral,” he said.
A family spokesperson said the late former First Lady is going to be buried next to her husband as per her wishes.
Canaan Banana, described as “a rare gift to the nation” when he died aged 67 November 2003, was denied national hero’s status by then President Robert Mugabe “as a matter of principle”, according to then Politburo secretary for information and publicity Nathan Shamuyarira.
It was apparent the country’s President from 1980 to 1987, in the eyes of the country’s rulers, could have squandered his national goodwill after he got mired in a messy sodomy scandal which saw him serve time in a Zimbabwean prison following a conviction.
Mugabe was an incorrigible hater of men who found sexual pleasure on fellow men.
But 18 years later, Banana may still not have been forgiven even by Mugabe’s successors as his widow, just like him, has just been granted a State assisted funeral, an honour often reserved for those with modest contribution to the national cause.
This is despite Mnangagwa going to great lengths to acknowledge the enormous contributions the late Mrs Banana made in support of her husband during the liberation struggle.
“The country remembers her with fond memories and admiration for the important roles she played during the period of our liberation struggle, and as our First Lady,” Mnangagwa said in his condolence message.
“During the struggle for our independence, the former First Lady exhibited courage and bravery as she endured persistent harassment at the hands of the Rhodesians for supporting her husband, the late First President of the Republic, Reverend Canaan Sodindo Banana, in his activism.
“To the very end of her husband’s life and her own, she remained a strong pillar of support to both her husband and children.
“We shall not forget as a mother of our Nation. She carried herself with simplicity and dignity.
“Our country is all the poorer with her passing on.”
The Zanu PF led administration has come under fire for alleged hypocrisy and favouritism when it comes to according heroes’ status to outstanding citizens.
Musicians Oliver Mtukudzi and dancehall star Souljah Love were accorded national hero and liberation heroes’ status despite not having played a part in the liberation struggle.
Mugabe once declared the national shrines were for those who took part in the liberation struggle.
But in her denial of national heroine status, Janet Banana failed to join fellow widows of the country’s President and Vice Presidents who were all easily accorded the highest honour of the land.
Mugabe’s first wife Sally, who died of kidney failure back in 1992, was declared a national heroin together with Johanna Mafuyana, late wife to late former Vice President Joshua Nkomo.
Similarly, Maud Muzenda, wife to late former vice President Simon Muzenda; Maria Msika, late former wife to late Vice President Joseph Msika were accorded national heroine status.