OBITUARY: CHANCELLOR ROBERT ATHERSTONE STUMBLES

by
30 March 2010

The Bishop of Harare writes:

ROBERT STUMBLES, Chancellor of the diocese of Harare, died on 17 March, aged 75. His funeral, held in the Arundel School Chapel on 26 March, was attended by many people from the Church of the Province of Central Africa, including the Dean of the Province, the Rt Revd Albert Chama.

The son of Albert Rubidge Washington Stumbles and his wife Molly, Robert Atherstone Stumbles attended Blakistone Junior School, and St George’s College, Harare, before going to Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, for his first degree in Law, and then to Oxford University, where he took his MA and continued his prominence in rugby and athletics.

He read for the bar at Gray’s Inn, London, where he was selected Marshal to the High Court judge Sir Donald Finnemore on the south-eastern circuit Assizes. Bob joined the law firm of Stumbles & Rowe (founded by his father) in 1960, eventually becoming senior partner. He was admitted as a legal prac­titioner in Zimbabwe in 1964, Malawi in 1986, and Botswana in 1988. He became sole proprietor of legal firm Sacranie, Gow and Com­pany in Malawi.

Bob had a passion for justice. He attended the constitutional talks that led to the Rhodesia/Zimbabwe agreement in 1978. He was appointed a member of the national Constitutional Committee set up to draft the 1978 Constitution of Zim­babwe, and has been a member of the Judicial Service Commission of Zimbabwe since 1985. President Robert Mugabe appointed him a member of the Sandura Com­mission [set up to investigate alleged corruption — Editor] in 1989.

To Church Times readers, Bob is best known for his work as a church lawyer and legal adviser in Zimbabwe, through good and bad times. Bob was Diocesan Registrar for the Anglican diocese of Mashonaland, now Harare, from 1972 to 1990. He was Diocesan Chancellor from 1990, and Deputy Chancellor of the Church of the Province of Central Africa from 1989.

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Over the years, Bob was chairman of several companies, and director of others, including British Airways and UDC. He was a trustee on many boards, such as the Round Table Race Relations Endowment Trust, and Zimbabwe National Trust Fund for the Disabled. He founded the Zimbabwe Paraplegic Olympics, Childline in Zimbabwe, and other charities.

In 1976, he was founder-chairman of the non-party-political National Pledge Association, to press for removal of discrimination based on race, and in 1977 became founder-chairman of the National Unity Association, established to remove racial discrimination and build unity between ethnic groups and support human rights and justice. He was founder-editor of the African Rehabilitation Journal, and chairman and past president of several other charitable organ­isations.

In 1973, he was elected World President of the World Council of Young Men’s Service Clubs at the annual conference in Bruges, Belgium. He was presented with a number of awards, such as the Order of Epiphany, and the Jaycees Award (1971), as one of two outstanding young men of his country.

Bob was runner-up for the “Com­municator of the Year” Award in Zimbabwe for 1980. (It was won by the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, now President Mugabe.) Bob was made an hon. life member of the Association of Round Tables of Central Africa in 1975, and Rotary Paul Harris Fellow in 1988.

Bob was a noted sportsman, representing his school at rugby, cricket, tennis, and athletics (Victor Ludorum), university at rugby and athletics, and Zimbabwe at athletics. His hobbies included tennis, fishing, reading, and music.

He is survived by his widow, Pamela Anne, their three children, and five grandchildren.

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