Prime Minister Ian Smith, seeking support from Rhodesia's "moderate" blacks, today proposed sweeping changes in the country's racial policies.
Despite the major changes, which would open the way to black purchase of farm and business land now reserved for whites and end many restrictions on blacks, it was uncertain whether they would meet the full demands of the black nationalist leaders.
Smith's intention, however, has been to promote an internal settlements of Rhodesia's majority-rule dispute rather than an international settlements. Smith's announcement today was seen as an effort to win support from local blacks, whom he considers less radical than internationally known leaders of the black nationalist movements.
A purely Rhodesian settlement has been opposed by the United States, Britain and black nationalist leaders, who contendt hat it would do little to end the inequities in white-ruled Rhodesia, where blacks outnumber whites by more than 20-to-1.
Smith outlined his proposals in a speech to Parliament and said that the world would now have no choice but to recognize what he described as "a democratic internal settlement demonstrably acceptable to the majority of Rhodesians."
He added, "I am sufficiently pragmatic to accept that it will have to be demonstrated to the rest of the world that it is a genuine settlement" and he said that the government had not closed the door to possible participation in new talks by nationalist leaders outside the country.
Smith's proposals, which include some that would require action by Parliament and others that the government could put into effect on its own, were:
White farmland, which comprises more than one-third of the country, would be open to occupation and ownership by blacks.
Industrial and commercial land in business districts would be open to all races for lease, occupation or ownership, but trading in black townships and white residential areas would continue to be restricted.
All hotels and bars would be open to blacks.
State-owned schools and hospitals would remain segregated but privately owned institutions would be free to admit whomever they wish.
The first black army officers would be commissioned in June and blacks would be recruited as magistrates and prison officers.
Smith said there would be no recommendation to desegregate residential areas. "The movement toward plural occupation should be gradual and unhurried," he said.
Opening white farm and industrial land to black ownership would remove one of the cornerstones of white Rhodesian government policy, under which the country has been divided into two areas of almost equal size - one black and one white, despite the disparity in population.
While the proposals amount to a major policy change by the government, they are unlikely to be acceptable to black nationalist leaders, in the view of observers. The nationalists, even the moderate black party, the Zimbabwe United People's Organization, have called for removal of all racial discrimination as a precursor to any political settlement.
Smith said, however, "I believe that this statement indicates not only the government's sincere intention to remove racial discrimination but also its desire to work with our black people in order to produce the correct political situation for our future."
The announcement came as the government listed 15 deaths in violence since yesterday and two black Roman Catholic priests were jailed for not reporting the presence of a guerrilla unit near their mission in eastern Rhodesia.
Three security officers, two black and one white, and 11 black guerrillas were killed in clashes, officials said, and a black civilian was killed while violating the dusk-to-dawn curfew.
The government said today that because of increasing emigration and lessened immigration, Rhodesia had a net loss of nearly 1,000 whites last month. Rhodesia lost about 7,00 whites last year.