Canaan Banana’s widow dies

by | Jul 29, 2021 | Local News | 0 comments


Hosia Mviringi

Janet Banana, widow to Zimbabwe’s first President Canaan Banana has died.

She was 83.

Janet Banana passed on at Bulawayo’s Mater Dei Hospital after a protracted battle with a kidney disorder.

Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga who is niece to the late former First Lady confirmed the death, saying the kidney ailment had taken a toll on her for some time.

“She had battled a kidney ailment for quite some time. She was admitted into the hospital on July 19, 2021 with all hopes that she would win and come out better. But unfortunately she lost the battle,” said Misihairambwi-Mushonga.

Gogo Banana, born Janet Mbuyazwe was a trained teacher who, during her stint as a teacher, met her would be husband, Canaan who was a fellow teacher at the same school. They got married in 1962.

Her husband then had to answer to a religious call which saw him enrolling with a local theological college to become a Minister of religion with the Methodist Church, a passion that he pursued until it led him into national politics as a mediator at first, then as first President of a free Zimbabwe.

His ceremonial post was outlawed through a Constitutional amendment which saw former President Robert Mugabe ascend to the throne as the first Republican executive President.

Janet had to endure some painful heart breaks in 1997 when Canaan was arrested on charges of sodomising his bodyguard, one Jefta Dube.

The startling revelations came out during the trial of Dube for murder after he had fatally shot a fellow police officer, Patrick Mashiri who had taunted him as “Banana’s wife”.

The news however, came as painful confirmation for what she had already gotten to suspect for a long time.

“Before we moved out of State House, my husband’s bodyguard gave some startling news.
He told me ‘Canaan is gay,’ and I was shocked,” she told the Guardian back in 2002.

“For a long time, I questioned myself: why, why? Eventually, after some soul searching I began to think, it’s his life, maybe I should accept it and move on”.

A difficult decision indeed for a woman. Such was the strength of character she exuded then.

The couple continued living together when Canaan returned from a brief self-imposed exile in South Africa after fleeing Zimbabwe while on bail.

Banana had to serve a six month sentence in an open prison at Conemara in the Midlands town of Kwekwe.

At the turn of the millennium in year 2000, Janet’s friends in London suggested that she visits them in London for break.
She reminisced, “Once I was on the plane, I went through all the recent events of my life.
I was coming to London for holiday, but on reflection, I decided there was no life for me anymore in Zimbabwe,” she said then admitting that all affection had almost died between her and her husband.

Canaan Banana died a year later while Janet got British citizenship in 2006.

Since returning to Zimbabwe in 2019, Janet has been in and out of hospital both in Zimbabwe and South Africa as she sought expert medical attention for the kidney ailment.

Burial arrangements will be announced in due course.