BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
THE widow of Zimbabwe’s late first post-independence President Canaan Banana, Janet has died. She was 83.
She passed on at Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo due to kidney failure.
She had been admitted since July 19, her niece Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, confirmed.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the family was indebted to President Emmerson Mnangagwa for facilitating medical assistance during Janet’s hospitalisation.
“She passed away today morning. The government has been looking after her. In fact, we had Health deputy minister (John) Mangwiro assigning some physicians to attend to her, but sadly, we have lost her,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga told NewsDay.
Yesterday, Mnangagwa accorded State-assisted funeral to Janet, describing her as a liberation icon.
“The country remembers her with fond memories and admiration for the important role she played during the period of our liberation struggle and as our First Lady,” Mnangagwa said.
“On behalf of the party, Zanu PF, government, First Lady, my family and on my behalf, I wish to express my condolences to the Banana family, especially to the children who remain and have lost a loving mother. I have directed that the late former First Lady be accorded a State-assisted funeral.”
In 2019, reports said Mnangagwa had ordered relevant government organs to cater for Janet and facilitate her pension payout after her hospitalisation at a private hospital following her return to Zimbabwe after an 18-year stay in the United Kingdom.
Janet trained as a teacher and met Canaan, who was also an educator, before they married in 1961.
Canaan, a former Methodist cleric, who served as Zimbabwe’s first President between 1980 and 1987, died in 2003.
In 1999, he was found guilty of 11 counts of sodomy and abusing his power to sexually assault and engage in “unnatural acts” with men, most of whom were on his presidential staff.
Banana was released from prison in 2001 after serving eight months.
Mourners are gathered at her Luveve house.
Meanwhile, Mnangagwa also sent a condolence message to Agriculture deputy minister Vangelis Haritatos following the death of his mother, Angela, 19 days after the death of her husband, Peter, the former Muzvezve Zanu PF MP, due to COVID-19 complications.
The deputy minister’s mother also succumbed to COVID-19 complications on Wednesday.
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