FORMER President Robert Mugabe should be the last person to complain about being ill-treated and being denied a retirement package commensurate with his position as former Head of State, the family of the country’s late ceremonial President Canaan Banda has said.
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
Banana’s family told Southern Eye last week that Mugabe deserved to taste his own medicine after denying their father a government pension and went on to deny him national hero status when he died in November 2003. He was buried at his rural home in Matabeleland South province without the full honours that are traditionally reserved for former Heads of State.
Mugabe was recently quoted as complaining over his pension and retirement benefits he was awarded by his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
In particular, Mugabe is alleged to have raised concern over withdrawal of his service vehicles “and the boys and girls who used to work with us”.
The Southern Eye heard Banana’s family was “revelling’ at Mugabe’s anger over his retirement benefits, arguing he should have ensured a system was put in place to ensure Banana enjoyed his retirement to allow him to also benefit from the same system when he quits office.
“Had his government ensured the former President Canaan Banana and First Lady (Janet) were fully accorded their retirement benefits as highly respected citizens according to Zimbabwe laws, perhaps him and his wife would have had a smooth transition to forced retirement,” a source close to the Banana family said.
Banana, who died in 2003 after battling prostate cancer, failed to access his pension and retirement benefits until he died. Sources said his wife, Janet, has for more than 17 years also not received her full entitlement according to the laws of Zimbabwe “and consequently she has resorted to leading a life of frugality in the United Kingdom”.
According to the Presidential Pensions and Retirement Benefits Act (Chapter 2:05 Presidential Pension And Retirement Benefits Act, Acts 30/1987, 7/1989 (s.25), 6/1998, 2/2003) she should receive a pension.
Sources said the family has also engaged President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration over Banana’s pension and retirement benefits through the Zimbabwean embassy in the UK, but without success.
“In the past three months, since President Mnangagwa took over the Presidency, the family was hoping that this was now a reformed leadership in government, and State they have sent communications more than three times, twice being through the Zimbabwe embassy in London, where they recorded some of the conversations with the Embassy staff.
“The embassy gave assurances that the last letter sent close to a month ago was in fact in the diplomatic bag and that receipt of the letter would have been treated with the urgency it deserves as it’s from a former First Family,” the source said.
Repeated efforts to obtain a comment from Banana’s family were futile, with several of them saying they “will comment at an appropriate time”.
Banana served as the country’s President in a ceremonial post at independence in 1980. He relinquished the post in 1987 when Mugabe, then Prime Minister, became executive President.
Banana was denied hero status following his 1998 conviction for homosexual offences against junior State House staff.