It Was Illegal To Joke About President Canaan Banana
In all our coverage of nutty world leaders, we’ve never before got around to mentioning Zimbabwe’s first president, Canaan Banana. Perhaps it was because he forbade us from mocking him, using the full power of the law.
He passed a law in 1982 banning people from making fun of his name. He didn’t arrest such detractors by accusing them of being traitors to the country or of hate speech or of antisocial behavior, like so many dictators do when targeting critics. He specifically banned mockery of his name. Because, you see, he had a very funny name, that name being “Canaan Banana.”
The jokes were harmless and didn’t criticize his actions at all (jokes should criticize all politicians for their actions, but these ones didn’t). For example, one joke said that when Banana visited London, the Queen asked him if had come alone or in a bunch. With the law in place, one writer stuck in a line about how “attempts to contact Mr. Banana were fruitless” then earned some pushback from the editor over possible lawbreaking.
Canaan Banana became president when the country formed in 1980. Robert Mugabe took over the role before the decade was done and held on to the presidency for 30 years (even before then, Mugabe pretty much ran the country, though under the title of prime minister rather than president).
Now that we’re living in a world where Canaan Banana is no longer president, everyone’s asking us whether the law against mocking his name's still being enforced. We’re gonna guess “no,” based on how Banana fell from grace post-presidency.
First, a policeman mocked one of Banana’s bodyguards, calling him “Banana’s homosexual wife.” So, this bodyguard murdered the guy. We’re not going to blame Banana’s anti-joke policy, but it couldn’t have helped. At his trial, the bodyguard talked a lot about his ex-employer, who’d now been out of office for a decade. No, said the bodyguard, I was not Banana’s homosexual wife. But Banana did coerce a whole lot of other male employees into sex.
And so the country put their former president on trial. They convicted him of eleven counts of sodomy and indecent assault and sent him to prison. Backing up the allegations against him was the man’s actual, non-homosexual wife—who, we should note, probably always held a grudge against him, since he had saddled her with the married name of Janet Banana.
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