Wednesday, December 23, 1998 Published at 23:07 GMT
Banana sentence postponed
Canaan Banana: Talk of a deal brokered by President Mandela
The High Court in Zimbabwe has postponed the sentencing of the former president, Canaan Banana, on charges of sodomy and homosexual assault.
The postponement comes amid talk of a deal between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his South African counterpart Nelson Mandela, which could involve a pardon or reduced sentence for Mr Banana.
Mr Banana returned last week from South Africa, where he met President Mandela.
His return to Zimbabwe came just days after a meeting between Mr Mandela and Mr Mugabe, where Mr Banana's case is believed to have been discussed.
Postponing sentencing until 18 January, Judge President Godfrey Chidyausiku said he needed more time to consider submissions from the state and the defence.
Mr Banana is to remain under house arrest in Harare pending sentencing.
Lawyers for Mr Banana pleaded for a fine and no jail sentence.
They spoke of his poor health, and the fact that he had suffered enough with adverse press coverage.
Mr Banana was convicted in absentia on 10 charges involving sodomy and indecent assault, and one count of common assault. Most of the charges relate to the period between 1980 and 1987 when he was president.
The former head of state and Methodist clergyman faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Chief prosecutor Augustine Chikumira acknowledged in court that "political considerations" were in play, but added that these aspects of the case "must be considered by politicians and I would rather leave it to them."