Rhodesian Action Party

Rhodesian Action Party

The Rhodesian Action Party was a political party in Rhodesia formed in 1977 by a group of Rhodesian Front MPs who were dissatisfied by the leadership of Ian Smith and his attempts to negotiate an 'internal settlement' with African nationalists. Twelve members of the Rhodesia House of Assembly joined the party when it was launched on July 4 1977.

The defections did not end the Rhodesian Front majority in the Assembly but did deprive it of the two-thirds majority which was needed to amend the constitution and Smith therefore decided to dissolve the Assembly and hold an early general election in order to try and regain the initiative. The party contested 46 out of the 50 white seats at the 1977 general election, and performed disastrously: not merely did it fail to win any seat, none of the sitting members won more than 22.3% of the vote in their constituency. The party's overall total was 9.3%.

The party remained in existence and fought the Highlands North byelection in 1978 after the internal settlement agreement, but did not significantly improve.

President of the Party was Mrs Ina Antoinette Bursey (previously Rhodesian Front MP for Sinoia-Umvukwes in the 1965 General Election) (D.O.B. unknown). She resigned before the 1970 election and stood as an independent in the 1970 election, for the same seat, but failed after garnering 4.9% of the vote. National Chairman of the Rhodesian Action Party was ex RF member Mr Guy Ferdinand Larché (b 8/4/23 in Paris, France - still alive as at 21/3/2007). He was a member of the RF Greendale branch, but opposed existing MP, Mark Partrige. When the 12 Rhodesian Front MP's crossed the floor to form the RAP in 1977, Guy Larche was one of the founding organisers. Larché grew up in Port Louis, Mauritius. He attained the rank of Sergeant in the French (later British) forces during World War II, serving as an instructor. Larché lived in South Africa after 1945, moving to Southern Rhodesia in 1959. Thereafter, he worked in Kitwe on the Northern Rhodesian Copperbelt as an engineer in the Kitwe Power Station before returning to Rhodesia in 1972, where he ventured into politics. Time Magazine interviewed Larché as leader of the RAP in 1976, describing him as "a pencil thin man sitting in the RAP offices overlooking Cecil Square". As National Chairman of the party, Larché wrote RAP speeches, conducted letter writing campaigns and press releases opposing the Rhodesian Front's negotiations with the UANC of Bishop Abel Muzorewa, which ultimately led to the formation of Rhodesia-Zimbabwe in 1978. Larché moved to South Africa with his wife, Eileen, and her children in 1980. Interestingly, in 1995, despite his right wing political opinions, Larché became a card carrying member of the ANC (South Africa's majority political party, under Nelson Mandela). He currently lives in Johannesburg. He was attacked in a robbery on his Johannesburg business in 1996, but survived seven stab wounds to his head and upper body, despite the perforation of both lungs. He retired completely shortly thereafter.

In 1975 Guy Larché married Eileen Theresa Gilmore (nee Forrester), (b 9/9/34 in Belfast Northern Ireland) in Salisbury. Eileen Larché was also an office bearer in the Rhodesian Action Party, and a local Salisbury business owner (Gentleman Jim, Shaggy Dog Ties and Gilmont Enterprises). Eileen Larché was the ex-wife of a somewhat well known Rhodesian photographer and musician, Bob Gilmore. She was interviewed in the Radio Rhodesia English service actuality programme "Off the Cuff" in the mid 70's about her successful businesses and involvement in RAP.

Footnote on Bob Gilmore: Robert (Bob) Vance Gilmore (b 18/1/30 in Belfast N.Ireland 13/5/98 Newbury, England) was well known in musical circles for his band, The Bobcats, a 'Trad' Jazz band that was the supporting act for performers such as Louis Armstrong when he performed in Salisbury, Rhodesia, in the 60's as part of Louis Armstrong's tour of Southern Africa. Bob Gilmore was part of two Rhodesin Broadcasting Corporation (RBC) television shows in the 70's; "Walk Right In" and "Kennedy at Large"; in which the Bobcats Jazz Band provided musical entertainment. Bob Gilmore's political views were the opposite of the conservative Eileen Larche and Guy Larche, being a member of the National Unifying Force (NUF), a liberal party that supported black majority rule in Rhodesia.

Other RAP office bearers included Marie Joseph Claude de Chasteigner Dumée-Duval (also Mauritian) who contested the Highlands North seat in the 1977 General Election. The last byelection held in Salisbury before the full onset of black majority rule, was held in the Highlands North constituency on July 21, 1978 to replace Fergus Blackie, who had been appointed as a Judge and resigned on May 15, 1978. This byelection occurred after the internal settlement agreement, and the Rhodesian Front candidate was therefore opposed not only by the National Unifying Force (pressing for a full settlement with African nationalists) but by two right-wing candidates opposed to any deals: the Rhodesian Action Party, (represented by Claude Dumée-Duval) and the Rhodesian Conservative Alliance. This was the last election effort actively presided over by RAP Chairman Guy Larché, Rhodesia's last official opposition, although a few further rural byelections were held, notably in Mazoe and Gwelo, later the same year. Both were opposed by the RAP and won by the RF.

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