Childhood & Early Life
Canaan Banana was born on March 5, 1936 in Essexvale, Southern Rhodesia. His father was a migrant who had emigrated to Rhodesia (the earlier name of Zimbabwe),.
Upon acquiring his early education from the missionaries at a local school, Banana pursued his ambition of becoming a teacher by enrolling himself at Tegwani Training Institute.
In 1962, he attained his diploma in theology from the Epworth Theological College in Salisbury. Same year, he was ordained as a United Methodist Minister.
For a year, from 1974 to 1975, he studied at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
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After attaining his degree, Banana took up teaching positions at various institutions such as, Epworth Theological College, Kansai Industrial Centre, Wesley Theological Seminary and University of South Africa.
He did not limit himself to teaching only and soon got involved in the country’s political affairs. He headed Bulawayo Council of Churches as the chairman from 1969 to 1970. For three years, from 1970 to 1973, he served as a member of the Southern Africa Urban Industrial Mission.
Meanwhile, in 1972, he became a founding member and vice president of African National Council led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa, a position which he served until 1973. As a member of the ANC, he represented the political organization in United States and United Nations.
Having contradictory opinions compared to Bishop Abel Muzorewa, in the latter half of 1970s, Banana joined ZANU (Zimbabwe African National Union), led by Robert Mugabe which worked fundamentally to dethrone Ian Smith’s government. Ian Smith was the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe at that point of time.
Due to his defiant political practices, he was apprehended a number of times. What’s more, his publications which comprised of rebellious opinions were also banned. Nevertheless, he did not give up on his political pursuits.
In 1980, following the country’s independence, Banana was elected as its first president.
The highpoint in his term as the president came when he played an instrumental role in the merger of Zimbabwe’s two political parties, ZANU and ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People’s Union). The Unity Accord brought to an end Matebeland massacre which had caused death of more than 20000 civilians
In 1987, he retired from his office of the President after the then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe took over the office as the executive President.
Post presidential term, he took up the position of a diplomat in Organisation of African Unity, which aimed at brokering peace in Liberia. He even served as the religious head in the University of Zimbabwe. He was also on the United Nations commission of eminent churchmen investigating business in South Africa.
In 1989, he headed members of the World Council of Churches, who aimed at inhibiting apartheid in South Africa.
In 1997, he was arrested on the charges of sodomy, when during a murder trial his former bodyguard made this startling disclosure. It came to light that during his term as president, Canaan Banana forced several men to accept his sexual advances.
In 1999, he was sentenced to ten years in jail. He spent only six months in an open prison before moving to Great Britain where he was kept under house arrest.
Banana did justice to his education by making his presence felt in the arena of liberation theology with his book, ‘The Gospel According to Ghetto’. He also came up with a personalized version of ‘Lord’s Prayer’, which coerced Africans to fight against white authority.
As President, he played a key role in the merger of ZANU and ZAPU, which brought an end to the massacre of innocent civilians.
Personal Life & Legacy
Banana tied the nuptial knot with Janet Mbuyazwe in 1961. The couple was blessed with three sons and a daughter, namely, Michael Thabo, Nathan Sipho, Martin Mhambi Salaam and Nobuhle Beauty.
Banana died due to cancer on November 10, 2003 at Charing Cross Hospital, Hammersmith due to cancer. His body was taken to Zimbabwe where he was buried. Despite being a former head of state, Banana did not receive full state honors due to his tainted reputation.