Zwarenge, a black construction worker, explained how he saw the position of whites changing in Rhodesia as it becomes the black-ruled country of Zimbabwe.
(Prime Minister Ian) Smith created for these people a place halfway between God and the rest of Zimbabwe. Now they have to come down to the rest of Zimbabwe," he said.
Rather than their personal safety, Rhodesia's 260,000 whites are most apprehensive about "coming down to the rest of Zimbabwe" as almost 90 years of white rule nears an end in the rebel British colony. Reluctantly accepting black majority rule, the whites hope it will mean as little change as possible in their way of life.
In contrast, Rhodesia's 6.7 million blacks, avidly anticipating majority rule, are expecting it to make great changes in their lives and in the priorties of the government.
These two different sets of priorities inevitably lead to dissimilar attitudes on the constitutional guarantees for whites, their permanence in the country and on something on hears a lot about in this capital city these days - "maintaining standards."
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Most whites are concerned about the deterioration we see coming," said a white mining engineer. "There definitely will be a lowering in the standard of living, but we have no option if the whole world is against us."
"For example," said one young white lawyer, "you don't like to call the police station to report a robbery and then have to wait hours in anguish to get someone to respond to your call."
"Whites are worried most about future conditions in schools and hospitals, they are less concerned about residential segregation," said retired Col. Mac Knox, chairman of the all white Rhodesia Front [WORD ILLEGIBLE] . Whites also express fears about job security, promotional opportunities and about alterations in their "Western way of life."
For most whites, the degree of change in these areas will determine whether they stay or leave a black-run Rhodesia. At the same time, the number of whites who remain to support the new black government in its tasks will influence the extent of such changes. The more whites who take the so-called "chicken run" and leave Rhodesia, the faster and more drastic will be the changes, as happened in Angola and Mozambique, observers point out.
Therefore, one of Smith's principal objectives when he negotiated a transfer to majority rule with three moderate black leaders earlier this year was winning guarantees for whites in order to encourage them to remain and to give them confidence in their future under black rule.
This is why the Salisbury agreement, the fruit of three months of negotiations between Smith, the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole, Chief Jeremiah Chirau and Bishop Abel Muzorewa, contains the crucial "blacking mechanism" allowing whites with 28 reserved seats in Parliament to effectively veto all legislation which is contrary to their present status in the vital areas of the army, police, judiciary, civil service and prisons.
In this respect, the Salisbury agreement is unique in post-World War II, Africa, where 46 countries have gained independence. It is the first attempt to secure for whites such strong political guarantees. The general trend has been for whites to put out entirely from the political arena and try to maintain their influence through their economic activity.
This is also the reason why the Salisbury agreement is opposed by such black nationalist leaders as Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe, who have about 7,000 guerrillas operating against Rhodesian security forces inside the country. They say the "blocking mechanism" means real majority rule has not yet been granted by the whites and they have vowed to continue fighting.
While whites generally appreciate that the guarantees Smith got for them are aimed at maintaining white confidence, they are not sanguined about their success.
"They're only bits of paper, and to work they'll need goodwill," said the mining engineer.
"The constutional guarantee? They're every European's worry," said Knox. "In the rest of Africa, the constitution has been torn up in 12 months and they've become dictatorships and one-party states," he remarked, apparently forgetting that his Rhodesia Front has run Rhodesia virtually as a one-party state since 1965.
While most blacks say they want whites to stay in Zimbabwe, they also say they should not get special treatment.
'I can understand whites' fears," said Winnie Wakatama, an official of Women for Peace. "But I don't feel they should be so much protected. They do have expertise we need, but we shouldn't have to persuade them to stay to the point of making things good for them."
"I get so disenchanted with the idea of trying to keep whites here," said Ishmail Chatikobo, president of University of Rhodesia's student union."We don't have to nurse them. I'd rather have standards go down than remain under an oppressive regime."
The black side in the debate about maintaining standards is put most succinctly by Cornell graduate Olivia Muchena, 31, who sits on the central committee of Musorewa's United African National Council.
"There's so much talk about efficiency and standards and so forth and I want to ask, 'whose standards'?" Muchena said.
"In a developing country you have to make sure everyone is fed and can go to school - those are the standards I'm for. But if you're talking about coming to work at a factory exactly on time every morning, that's not a standard I'm working for," she explained.
"When the whites say no lowering of standards, they mean no blacks must move into white neighborhoods," said Wakatama, who lived for four years in Chicago's suburb of Wheaton. "Intermarriage, tha's their greatest fear."
During the Salisbury negotiations. Muchena said her central committee spent hours discussing the clause that says: "The public service, police force, defense force and prison service, will be maintained in a high state of efficiency and free from political interference."
This is one of the so-called "entrenched" rights clauses guaranteeing, as far as many whites are concerned, that their positions in the civil service are secure and protected by the legislative "blocking mechanism." Although the internal black leaders have agreed to this, they will undoubtedly come under pressure from the black community to get more blacks into the state bureaucracy once black rule comes.
According to Muchena, she and her colleagues believe that clause "doesn't entrench personnel, it entrenches efficiency. And God knows how you entrench efficiency in a constitution."
"Efficiency is not the monopoly of the white man," said university professor (and opponent of the Salisbury agreement) Ariston Chambati.
"African people can acquire skills. Some blacks say a price must be paid to keep white skills, but that price should not be an artificial society," he said, explaining that the civil service needs to be "restructured" by opening it up to all qualified applicants, black and white.
Speaking to whites' fears about a drop in educational standards, Muchena said that if that happens, "it will be too bad, but it will be a creation of (the whites') own making for having two separate educational systems - one for whites and another for blacks."
But what we want is one good system for everyone, she said.
While whites see their future in Zimbabwe depending on maintenance of standards, blacks repeatedly stressed that their future depends much more on whites' willingness to adopt new attitudes.
"It depends on their willingness to change and to commit themselves to black majority rule," Muchena said.
"Those who commit them selves will stay and if they really have a heart for the country, they don't have to go because blacks understand many of them were born here," Wakatama said. "But they must understand that they cannot make laws for six million people.
"They will have to learn about us if they want to stay here. We are not going to be as Western as some whites think just to keep us standards, because we received our culture from our mothers' breasts."