By Trevor Grundy
One of the most outstanding journalists and authors to emerge from southern Africa, Lawrence Vambe, has died at a London nursing home. He was 102, and until recently had been in good spirits and health.
His first book “An ill-fated People“, published in 1972, is the story of his early life in Southern Rhodesia and his growing awareness of the need for change after that country’s small but powerful European community got rid of the respected Prime Minister Garfield Todd and put in his place a few years later, Ian Smith who, in November 1965, declared the country’s illegal independence.
The foreword to that seminal work was penned by the late Doris Lessing who wrote: “It was painful reading this book. I hope it will be painful for other white people to read it.”
His second book “From Rhodesia to Zimbabwe“ was published in 1976.
“Lawrence has enriched all our lives,” said Judith Todd, the daughter of the late Sir Garfield. “Lawrence was one of our great journalists, authors and historians,” said the veteran writer Pius Wakatama.
Lawrence Vambe was born in 1917. His mother died soon after his birth and he was brought up by German nuns at Chishawasha Mission outside the then Salisbury, later to become Harare. He was a strong supporter of the Commonwealth and was awarded an MBE by the Queen for his services to the organisation in 1959.
Lawrence attended the Jesuit/Marist Brothers-run Kutama College in West Mashonaland and was a friend of Robert Mugabe for decades until the Zimbabwean leader’s attacks on Africans in Matabeleland between 1983-1987 and then white farmers after 2000.
He returned to the UK, first to live along the border between Wales and England with his wife Mary and after her death, to London where he lived with one of his daughters and son-in-law at their home in North London.
In the 1950s Lawrence became editor-in-chief of the Daily News, which championed black rights in white-run Rhodesia, and his deputy was Nathan Shamuyarira, Zimbabwe’s first Minister for Information. He rubbed shoulders with all the men who went on to shape a literary tradition in Zimbabwe, including Stanlake Samkange, Pius Wakatama, Herbert Chitepo, Willkie Musarurwa, Ndabaningi Sithole, and Kingsley Dube.
In 1980s he was one of the founders of the Zimbabwe-Britain society and throughout his life he was a devoted Roman Catholic.