Anguished parents today managed to persuade only 51 of nearly 400 black Rhodesian youths to return home and abandon plans to enlists as guerrillas in the war against white-minority rule.
The teen-age boys and girls from the Manama Lutheran mission school in Rhodesia corssed into Botswana a week ago after armed guerrillas called at the mission.
Botswana, which arranged today's meetings with weeping mothers and often angry fathers, says the youths came across voluntarily.Rhodesia says they were kidnaped at gunpoint.
"I don not think I will ever see her again," said Bulawayo clerk Samson Nare, after his 17-year-old daughter Listanelo elected to stay.
His words summed up the anguish and the bewilderment of many of the 140 parents brought here.
Of of the 51 youths who did go home, most were girls aged 13 to 16. Two others left for Rhodesia yesterday. With a crowd of some 30 journalists on the scene today, many of the youths appeared reluctant to talk, making an accurate assessment of their views difficult.
Those who decided to stay behind were not here to wave good-bye as the convoy of eight half-empty buses with their parents aboard pulled out. They were back in a camp on the outskirts of town where they await the next move - to guerrilla training bases in Zambia. A total of 384 children made the trek across the border a week ago.
The parents who came here today were prevented from crossing the border yesterday because they did not have the funds to pay a bus customs fee of about $350. The Rhodesian government paid the fee today. Botswana is one of the five African nations actively supporting the black insurgency in Rhodesia.
The parent-child interviews were supervised by three Red Cross officials, British diplomat Peter Raftery, two Catholic priests from Rhodesia and Charles Tibone, administrative secretary in the office of Botswana President Seretse Khama.
Timothy Sithole, a clerk from Bulawayo, found that two of his dauther, Elaine, 13, and Knowledge, 15, wanted to come home with him while his son, Danny, 17, refused to do so.
Sithole said: "Danny said that some of the elder boys would kill him later if he came back with me. I think he wanted to come but he was just too afraid. My daughters said that they were forced to leave the school in the first place and they didn't want to join the terrorists."
His daughter Knowledge described what happened just one week ago at the lonely mission school."It was decided at our school that we must go. We came with the teachers. We came because they forced us. The teachers led us across. I didn't see any guns."
Another youth who chose to return, James Mkamba, was asked how he decided to return.
"I came here of my own will and I am going back with my father of my own will. Next year I think I will still go to Zambia. I want to learn a lot there," he responded.
Sampson Nare, a 49-year-old teacher, failed to persuade his 17-year-old daughter, Litsoaneleo, to return. He said: "I don't think I shall ever see her again. She told me that she was going to a better school and I asked her what was wrong with the one she had left. I only talked with her for 15 minutes and she said that she missed her family. She did seem happy all the same, and I cannot believe that she really knows why she is doing this or where she is going."
Asked if his daughter had voiced and sympathy for nationalists or their cause, Nare replied, "No, never. We never talked about such things at home."
Police escorted the girl, in a red dress, her back turned to the camera, to a waiting van which would take her to an uncertain future.
Even the daughter of the Manama school headmaster was reported to have elected to stay behind. The headmaster, Jeffias Ngwenya, apparently grief-stricken, did not come out to meet reporters.
A Rhodesian television crew, arrested yesterday while covering the story, is expected to appear in court Monday.