via Lord Plunket, a fighter of racial discrimination Sunday, 19 January 2014 by Tyrone Plunket SundayMail
Captain Robin Rathmore Plunket, eighth Baron Plunket, who had lived in Chimanimani for over half a century, died peacefully in London on the 16th November 2013 aged 87. Lord Plunket was descended from a long line of distinguished Irishmen, including the Blessed St Oliver Plunket and later more archbishops, bishops, diplomats and the first Lord Plunket (1827), Lord Chancellor of Ireland.
Lord and Lady Plunket emigrated to Chimanimani in 1957 where they spent the next 56 years developing the family forestry estate, Rathmore, and also actively working to break down the colonial barriers between blacks and whites, promoting peace, reconciliation, democracy and the development of a proud new Zimbabwe.
Lord Plunket was also a strong supporter of the twin pillars of trade and friendship of equals between Great Britain and the new independent Zimbabwe.
The Plunkets joined the UK branch of the Capricorn Africa Society in London in 1956, an organisation formed to fight racial discrimination in Southern and Eastern Africa.
Capricorn had members both black and white in Africa, including the late Herbert and Victoria Chitepo, Leopold and Sunny Takawira, Josiah Chinamano as well as the writers Lawrence Vambe and Stanlake Samkange. All of these were Plunket friends and often stayed at Rathmore.
Leopold Takawira made Lord and Lady Plunket honorary members of the newly formed National Democratic Party in 1960 and they subsequently refused to join the Smith regime’s security services and actively campaigned in Chimanimani and Chipinge to get Africans onto the voters’ roll.
They fought racial injustice because they agreed with their friend Leopold Takawira who wrote to Lady Plunket from Harare remand prison in 1970 some months before his untimely death that “racial politics poison the mind and poison the good taste, a racial politician only has to appeal to man at his worst”.
In 1960, Lord Plunket was chairman of the committee that set up Zimbabwe, the only truly multi-racial organisation of its kind at the time, and in 1961 Lady Plunket at the urging of several Capricorn members, including Lord Plunket, founded the Capricorn mobile unit to set up women’s clubs to help African women take their rightful and productive places in society, teaching them modern home craft and community service.
In the 1970s, Lord Plunket made several speeches in the House of Lords in favour of the UK government, taking strong measures to bring down the illegal Ian Smith regime. In 1976 he joined a delegation to the Geneva Conference to lobby for a just settlement to bring about independence.
Lord Plunket was pleasantly surprised in 1980 at a party to celebrate Zimbabwe’s independence at State House when His Excellency, President Robert Mugabe, personally thanked both Lord and Lady Plunket for their gifts of food and books to the many imprisoned nationalist prisoners such as their friends Leopold Takawira and Herbert Chitepo as the President himself had been a beneficiary whilst he was a prisoner, as all the nationalists shared everything they received from their supporters.
After independence Lord Plunket kept himself abreast of Zimbabwe’s political landscape but withdrew from political campaigning, focusing his efforts instead on supporting the vital though sometimes fraught alliance between Great Britain and Zimbabwe, and locally the Chimanimani community where he financed numerous school and university careers, donated thousands of up-to-date school books to all the local Government schools and in helping Lady Plunket oversee, as she does to this day as Life President, the Capricorn mobile units women’s clubs in Manicaland, which in its heyday had 70 women’s clubs with thousands of women members.
Lord Plunket’s last wish was for his ashes to be scattered at Rathmore in Chimanimani, the Plunket’s family home for the last 50 years.
Lord Plunket is succeeded by his nephew, Tyrone Plunket, the ninth Baron Plunket who continues to live in Chimanimani.