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Zanu PF clashes over Banana

Staff Writer

THE Zanu PF politburo heard conflicting views over former president Canaan Banana’s record at an emergency meeting on Monday.

, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Zanu PF sources said, despite official reports that only a couple of members contested the decision to refuse Banana hero status, the ruling party was divided into two opposing camps which clashed head-on over whether or not Banana, a highly regarded nationalist and academic, should be buried at Heroes Acre, the national shrine.

The camp that supported Banana’s case is believed to include Vice-President Joseph Msika, Zanu PF chair John Nkomo, party secretary for administration Emmerson Mnangagwa, spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira and other heavyweights, although not all of them spoke at the meeting.

Msika is understood to have led the argument for conferring hero status on Banana. Contrary to reports, President Robert Mugabe appeared initially to back this group.

But an opposing front led by former army commander Solomon Mujuru and his ex-airforce counterpart Josiah Tungamirai blocked attempts to declare Banana a hero.

The politburo decision so angered Banana’s family that when Mugabe visited Banana’s Sentosa home to express his condolences on Tuesday there was obvious tension, sources present reported. Banana’s son Nathan, who accompanied the body of his father from London where he died, avoided talking to Mugabe altogether.

Sources said the controversy over Banana’s hero status forced Mugabe to stay away from the burial in Esibomvu, Matabeleland South, on Wednesday.

Mugabe has an impressive record of attending the funerals of his adherents.

Mujuru’s camp argued Banana’s criminal charges of sexual assault had badly blemished his record and diminished his standing in society.

Mujuru and Tungamirai were in charge of the armed forces when Banana abused personnel assigned to guard him at State House between 1980 and 1987.

Tungamirai testified during Banana’s High Court trial in 1999. Banana was convicted in 2000 and spent nearly a year in jail.

Sources said political considerations played a key role in the politburo’s final decision.

Those opposed to Banana’s hero status argued that at the time of his death he had become an opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) informal advisor. They cited his criticism of government’s land reform programme and denunciation of Zanu PF over political violence.

In May 2000 Banana said “no one is ordained to rule for eternity”. This irked Zanu PF mandarins who viewed the remarks as an attack on Mugabe.

Banana also said the presidential term of office should be limited because “Zimbabwe cannot be ruled by one person”.

In 2001 Banana said Zimbabwe should put its house in order to avoid targeted sanctions. He also said he supported a government of national unity bringing Zanu PF and the MDC together.

When Zanu PF denied its founder president Ndabaningi Sithole hero status in 2001, Banana said the system of selecting heroes was flawed.

“I think the problem is with the whole process of declaring heroes. I believe that the question of determining who should be a national hero should not be a party issue,” he said. “You need an independent commission to deal with the issue.”

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