"He's strong and honest," said Walter Jacobs, president of the American-African Affairs Association, gazing across the room at a tall, thin man briskly shaking hands. Outside the International Club, the same man, Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith, was being called a "killer" and an "imperialist" by 100 pickets.
For the second day, receptions for Smith and the Rev Ndabaningi Sithole, one of Smith's three black partners in his transitional government, were picketed by young blacks and whites who consider the Smith regime racist and illegal. Also, for the second day, after rounds of unproductive diplomatic talks (but what they considered effective public relations) Smith and his party were surrounded by sympathizers.
Inside the basement reception room, where the protest outside could not be heard, people took Polaroid photos handed Smith supportive editorials and received some answers on politics and investments.
"On my last visit to Rhodesia the thing that stayed with me was the erosion of the economy, because of the fear of guerrilla soldiers. Beautiful plantations were going to ruin," said retired Army Lt. Gen. William Yarborough, co-chairman of the non-profit association. "In Salisbury I went to the beer hall of the African Rifles group, and the black soldiers sang a song about what they were going to do with the guerrillas."
Among the 200 guests were a dozen blacks, including consultant Jay Parker, who did the publicity for the event. Leslie Polk, a former Foreign Service officer now at Meridian House, observed, "We have had several black businessmen from Rhodesia to Meridian. They've convinced me they can handle the situation when independence comes. If I categorically refuse to speak to Mr. Smith, I would consider it an act of ignorance."
For most of the two-hour reception, Smith stood greeting people, though he looked tired. Yesterday President Carter denied Smith's request for a personat meting but Smith didn't appear miffed.
On the sidewalk outside, Karen DeVaughn clutched her bullhorn and announced today's demonstration at the National Press Club. "He's here because his government is falling apart. Those three black-smiths (referring to Sithole and the two other blacks in Smith's government) don't have the support of the people. We not only want Smith to hear us but Carter too because he and (U.N. Ambassador) Andrew Young are hiding behind the guise of human rights in supporting this regime by granting the visa."
As Smith and Sithole left, surrounded by security men, the guests inside clapped.
When their limousine pulled down 18th street, the protesters booed.