The following dispatch was submitted to Rhodesian military censorship and parts were deleted .
Rhodesia's bi-racial transitional government yesterday opened the doors of three protected villages in this relatively calm zone and let their residents go home. Thus it began a somewhat belated campaign to win the rural black population to its side.
The villages, similar to the strategic hamlets the United States built in Vietnam to isolate villagers from the Vietcong, have long been controversial, and the new government's three black leaders pledged last spring to abolish them as soon as possible.
More than 400,000 of Rhodesia's 6.7 million blacks have been relocated in 263 such villages. They are concentrated in the border areas, although some are within 40 miles of the capital.
In the next few weeks, 12 protected villages will be dismantled in the Mtoko area, 90 miles northeast of Salisbury, and 40,000 residents will be allowed to return to their homes. A few others are reportedly also being opened elsewhere along the eastern border, although no publicity has been given to this yet.
Blacks about to be freed from Mudzonga protected village near here made clear how must felt about living in the villages. "We were prisoners," said one bluntly. "I am happy very much, very much to go home.
"The baboons were eating my crops but I couldn't protect them while I was here," said another. "Now I will sleep near my field and chase them away."
The villagers were required to check in at the gate by 6 p.m., and sometimes several hours earlier, and to remain inside the barbed wire enclosure until 6:30 a.m., he said.
It appeared that all 2,000 of the villagers, apart from those living on the site originally, planned to return to their homes immediately. One said they were anxious to rebuild their grass huts before the rainy seasons begins in November and freedom comes at the end of the year, a reference to the coming scheduled elections for a black majority government.
None of the half dozen persons interviewed seemed particularly concerned about losing the security the village was meant to provide them from the guerillas. "Why should we be afraid?" asked one of them. "They are our children."
The war situation in Rhodesia seems to change from district to district, creating a crazy checkerboard pattern and making ambushes or land mines possible in this or any other rural area of the country. Mtoko until recently was one of the hotter districts in Rhodesia.
"We still have terrorist in the area but they are not doing much," one man said.
Government officials will not say how many of the 263 protected villages are to be dismantled in the president campaign. The number, they say, is linked to the security situation, which is generally deteriorating.
But the much-criticized transitional government is under so much pressure from the African population to show results that it has apparently decided to run the considerable risk of losing the villagers' loyalty to the guerrillas in the slim hope of gaining it by setting them free.