Canaan Banana (5 March, 1936 – 10 November, 2003), a Zimbabwean Methodist minister, was the country's first President. He held the largely ceremonial office from 18 April 1980 to 31 December 1987, during which time Robert Mugabe served as prime minister.
He took a diploma in theology at a college in Epworth and was ordained in 1962. He became involved in politics and rose to be vice-president of the African National Council . When many Council members were arrested in the late 1960s, Banana and his family fled to the United States and did not return until 1975. Banana was arrested upon his return and remained in prison until 1979, after the Lancaster House Agreement. Banana played a big role in bringing the two major groups of freedom fighters ZANU and ZAPU together to form Zanu-PF. This was essential in order for the agreement to be signed.
Under the new constitution Banana became the first president. In 1987 his post was taken over by Mugabe, who made himself executive president. Banana became a diplomat for the Organisation of African Unity and head of the religious department at the University of Zimbabwe.
In 1996 he was arrested in Zimbabwe on charges of sodomy, following accusations made during the murder trial of his former bodyguard, Jefta Dube . Banana was found guilty of eleven charges of sodomy, attempted sodomy and indecent assault in 1998. He fled to South Africa while on bail before he could be imprisoned, apparently believing Mugabe was planning his death. He returned to Zimbabwe in December 1998, after a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Banana was sentenced on January 18, 1999 to ten years in jail, nine years suspended and he was also defrocked. He served two years in prison before being released in January 2001, and died of cancer in 2003.
He married Janet (b. 1938) in 1961 and they had four children. His wife sought asylum in Britain in October 2000.