FORMER First Lady Mrs Janet Banana, the late former President Canaan Banana’s widow who died yesterday, will be buried beside her husband at the family homestead in Esigodini.
Mrs Banana died at Mater Dei Hospital early yesterday morning at the age of 83 after suffering a stroke two weeks ago.
The former First Lady who was the country’s First Lady from 1980 to 1987, left Zimbabwe in 2000 to live in the United Kingdom and returned home in 2019.
Her son, Mr Nathan Banana, who is also the family spokesperson said his mother had been unwell for some time.
“She was having problems with her kidneys for more than four years but about two weeks ago, she had a minor stroke and was hospitalised. She had been struggling to recover from the stroke until her death today,” said Mr Banana.
He said the former First Lady is survived by three children as the other two, one of them Michael, are late.
Michael, Mrs Banana’s first born and former pilot of the Air Force of Zimbabwe, died last year.
Mr Banana said he believes that the stroke could have been caused by her not being able to bury Michael who died and was buried in the United Kingdom due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Michael collapsed and died in Liverpool.
“She had five children, but two have died, one passed on last year, that is Michael. And I think part of the stroke was a result of the pain because she didn’t get a chance to actually see him being buried or visiting his resting place and this affected her quite a lot. This was because of the Covid-19 restrictions,” said Mr Banana.
He said his mother will be buried at the family rural home next to her late husband in Bembe after Isibomvu in Esigodini, Matabeleland South, as per her request.
“She said before she died she wanted to be buried next to her late husband in Bembe.
The burial will be perhaps next week, we are yet to decide as a family,” said Mr Banana.
Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube said she mourns with the Banana family.
“Ugogo, uJanet Banana selele, umunt’ omdala wakoBulawayo. She was our First Lady when the country attained independence. I mourn her death on behalf of the province of Bulawayo and say a dark cloud has again descended upon us, after a few weeks after burying other elders of the city. We send our condolences to the family, the suburb of Luveve and Bulawayo as a whole,” said Minister Ncube.
Mourners are gathered at number 99 Luveve in Bulawayo.
Last year, President Mnangagwa visited Mrs Banana at the Banana family home in Luveve suburb as she was not feeling well.
In 2019, the First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa visited Mrs Banana with some gifts and thanked her for her contribution to the country, before and after independence.
In 2019 President Mnangagwa ordered Government to pay Mrs Banana her pension for being the First Lady.
At the time Mrs Banana told Sunday News that she was greatly indebted to President Mnangagwa for the support and aid she had been receiving.
“. . . All the efforts that they have been making together with those that work with him are excellent. I was away for 18 years and I am very grateful for the assistance that has been rendered to me by the Government of Zimbabwe,” she said.
Born on 28 January 1938 as Janet Mbuyazwe, Mrs Banana went on to train as a teacher. While teaching at a Methodist church mission school, she met another teacher and theologian Canaan Banana whom she married in 1961.