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Mnangagwa Says Late Former First Lady Janet Banana Played Key Role in Liberation of Zimbabwe

FILE: Zimbabwe's Prime Minister, Robert Mugabe, left, President Canaan Banana, center, his wife Janet, and an unidentified woman, stand during a military parade past Salisbury's Rufaro soccer stadium, April 18, 1982, during celebrations marking Zimbabwe's second anniversary. (AP)

President Emmerson Mnangagwa says Zimbabwe’s former First Lady, Mrs. Janet Mbuyazwe Banana, who died on Thursday, played a key role in the liberation of Zimbabwe.

In a statement, Mnangagwa said Mrs. Banana, who died at Mater Dei Hospital in the country’s second largest city, Bulawayo, was sick when he visited her recently.

Mnangagwa said, “When I last visited her at the family home in Luveve, Bulawayo, to console her following the death of her son, Michael, she was ailing, and our thoughts and prayers were for her speedy recovery. Sadly we have lost her when we thought she will be well again.

“The country remembers her with fond memories and admiration for her important roles she played during the period of our liberation struggle, and as our First Lady.”

He said during Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence, the late Mrs. Banana exhibited courage and bravery as she endured persistent harassment at the hands of the Rhodesians for supporting her husband, the late former first president, Reverand Cannan Sodindo Banana, in his activism.

“To the very end of her husband’s life, she remained a strong pillar of support for both her husband and children. We shall not forget her as a mother of the Nation. She carried herself with simplicity and dignity. Our country is all the poorer with her passing on.

“I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to the Banana family, especially to the children who remain, and have lost a loving mother. May I assure them of our support during this their darkest hour of grief. I have directed that the late former First Lady be accorded a state-assisted funeral.”

According to NewsDay, she succumbed to a kidney ailment.

Mrs. Banana spent almost 18 years in London where she sought political asylum and returned home in 2019.

Her husband, who served as Zimbabwe’s first president from 1980 to 1987, died in 2003.

Banana brokered a unity accord between then rivals PF Zapu and Zanu PF following the massacre of thousands of people by the notorious state-sponsored Fifth Brigade in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions, which were Zapu strongholds.

Despite playing a critical role in ending the killings, Banana was locked up for a year after a court found him guilty of 11 counts of sodomy and abuse of power. Banana claimed that he was wrongly convicted by the government of then President Robert Mugabe.

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