More than 3,000 black African civilians have been killed and a million others uprooted from their homes now in a war where the everyday killing and increasingly frequent massacre of blacks has gained little notice or sympathy in the West compared to the hue an cry over white deaths.
Nearly 2,000 black Africans have been gunned down by nationalist guerrillas as "sellouts" to the white-run minority government in Rhodesia, while 1,200 others have been shot by Rhodesian security forces as either collaborators, recruits of the "terrorists" or simply nightime curfew breakers, according to official war statistics.
This compares to slightly less than 200 white civilians slain by the guerrillas since the war in Rhodesia began escalating in early 1972.
The pace of killings of black African civilians is picking up as from one side, the guerrillas seek to impose an iron grip over the rural population by demonstrating who really controls their lives. From the other side, embittered and edgy army soldiers increasingly tend to fire indiscriminately on civilians suspected of aiding the nationalists.
"It's horrible at home now, the shooting and killings every day. We are caught between our boys in the bush and the security forces," related one black worker who has brought his entire family from the countryside to live with him in Salisbury.
This explains the growing mass exodus of blacks from the so-called Tribal Trust Lands, where roughly 5 million of Rhodesia's 65 million black population lives, to the towns and cities or across the borders into neighboring countries.
It is unofficially estimated that almost 500,000 blacks have come into the two largest cities, Salisbury and Bulawayo in western Rhodesia, in addition to the more than 100,000 who have fled to Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia.
Refugees apparently are not safe either. The Mozambique government says more than a thousand civilans have been killed in Rhodesian army raids on suspected guerrilla camps there.
Another 500,000 blacks have been forced into some 270 fenced and guarded enclosures known as "protective villages" in an effort to isolate the rural population from the guerrillas.
Altogether, about one out of every six blacks in Rhodesia has now been displaced by the war and the number is steadily growing.
Each side blames the other for atrocities and evidence suggests both are committing more of them as the war escalates and the proposed Dec. 31 date for the turnover of power to the black majority draws nearer.
The government, offering ghastly pictures as proof, asserts that the guerrillas often cut off their victims' ears, noses or lips - sometimes forcing family members to cook and eat them. It also says they torture and kill whose families as a lesson to the local population of what will happen to any "sellouts" of the nationlist cause.
The reported killing of 14 blacks by guerrillas over the weekend 125 miles east of here was not unusual, except perhaps for the publicity now being given by the multiracial transitional government to such incidents. The new readiness to publicize such killings follows black criticism that too much was made of the mass murder by ax club and bayonet of 13 white missionaries and their children two weeks ago.
The nationlists and the Catholic church, on the other hand, charge, with affidavits to support them, that the Rhodesian Army and police often torture suspects to get information and that killing of innocent people is become commonplace.
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace is investigating three recent massacres of blacks - involving between 150 and 200 persons by the army. The government has said the victims were killed accidentally in crossfires. The Catholic Commission is reported to have evidence, however, that a number of them were shot in the back while lying on the ground in an effort to avoid the shooting.
Blacks members of the white-dominated parliament told last week how law, order and services are breaking down in many of the 200-odd trust lands covering nearly half of Rhodesia.
Many schools, hospitals, clincis and localy elected councils have closed down, crime is soaring and killing is becoming routine, they said. The curfew in one trust land was recently 22 hours a day and 12 hours is now fairly common.
Guerrilla attacks on the missions are responsible for the closing of most of these rural institutions as part of a nationlist campaign to consolidate control over the rural population and destroy white influence.
Blacks have become "lik a flock of lost sheep left to be devoured by wild animals," said one black deputy. "The law of the jungle prevails" in the African reserves.
Some black members of parliament blame the situation in the Tribal Trust Lands on widespread atrocities committed by the guerrillas and the government's failure to catch and punish them.
"The terrorists come and murder a chief. Nothing is done. The next chief is murdered. Nothing is done. A policeman or a security man off on leave is murdered. Nothing is done," noted one deputy commenting on the escalating violence.
Others accuse the security forces of frequently opening fire on crowds of black civilians, killing scores and wounding many others. The largest such incident was in Gutu District near Fort Victoria in southeast Rhodesia where 107 blacks were killed recently, according to one black deputy. The government officially puts the death toll at 52.
The endless tales of killings and atrocities being told by blacks in Salisbury and elsewhere explain the flood of their countrymen into the towns and cities. Although no accurate figures are available, Red Cross officials and other local sources estimate the black population of Bulawayo has doubled from 250,000 to 500,000 because of the war and that of Salisbury has increased by as much or more.
The black Africans' extended families are moving into the already cramped quarters of their relatives working and living around these two cities. In Salisbury's black townships, single rooms in dormitories for working men are now housing entire families.
Hundreds of other blacks unable to find relatives with whom to live are simply camping at the Harare bus station square just two miles from the city's center.
Such open air squatting is illegal but the government allows them to stay while providing no assistance.
Some of these war refugees have lived this way all through the last rainy season and are now shivering through the winter cold of the southern hemisphere. Emaciated children can be seen running about, while the men cut and sell little bundles of firewood or brushes for 10 cents each and the women squat in the dirt cooking meals.
The International Committee for the Red Cross has begun providing medical assistance for these refugees, sending nurses or doctors with mobile clinics to visit them. Otherwise, the hapless refugees are left very much to fate and their wits for their survival.
"It's still better to be suffering here than shot at home," said one old man living at the Harare bus stop since last July. "We really don't have much choice anyway, do we?"