The government announced yesterday that black Rhodesians will be drafted into the army for the first time and will have the same military obligations as whites.
The move, while potentially significant militarily, was seen by observers as largely a psychological effort by Rhodesia's biracial interim ogvernment to mobilize blacks as well as whites at a time of national crisis.
Inclusion of blacks in the national draft would add a possible million additional troops to Rhodesias military manpower pool.
But for a number of reasons, Washington Post correspondent David B. Ottaway reported from Lusaka, Zambia, the move is likely to have little impact on the Rhodesian government's effort to defent itself against heavy pressure from guerrillas of the nationalist Patriotic Front.
Whites, Asians and persons of mixed race are now subject to the draft in Rhodesia, but blacks are accepted as volunteers and form the bulk of the country's 8,000-man army.
Traditionally, there have been more black volunteers for the army than Rhodesia has been able to accept. Efforts over the past six months to expand the army and absorb black volunteers by creation of a new battalion have met with considerable difficulty because of the shortage of training cadre and facilities.
In an effort to put black recruits into operational units more quickly, the government has shortened the training period from six months to three months, but the result, according to many observers, has been an influx of poorly trained soldiers.
Since expansion of the army through use of the readily available volunteers has proven impractical, Ottaway reported, the extension of the draft to black Rhodesians is likely to bring no immediate militay relief to hard-pressed white Rhodesia.
The government statement was issued by Ndabaningi Sithole, one of three blacks who, with white Prime Minister Ian Smith, make up the four-man executive council of the biracial government that is to prepare the way for black majority rule.
The statement said that since blacks, not whites, would be the benefactors of independence and majority rule, they have the obligation to fight to defend the internal settlement that would make the government possible.
Sithold siad that military registration of blacks will start immediately. Conscription, he said, will begin as soon as the necessary mechanism is set up.
Sithole is one of three moderate black Rhodesian leaders who on March 3 signed an internal settlement with Smith that excludes the foreign-based Patriotic Front from a role in governing the country.
"The present war is different than the one fought before the March 3 agreement," Sithole said. "Before the agreement, the war was between whites who had the vote and the blacks who had virtually no vote.
"After March 3 it became a war between the Patriotic Front and those who supported the agreement. The was has ceased to be an independence struggle but (has become) a brutal power struggle to install (the Front's co-leader Joshua) Nkomo as the leader of an independent country.
"The campaign which is now being waged has nothing to do with the liberation of the people. This has already been accomplised. It is a campaign directed by a minority clique of black power-seekers against the black majority within this country."
It is not likely that Rhodesia has the finances or the other resources to greatly increase the size of its army. Another improbility is whether the additional troops could be fielded quickly enough to stem the military deterioration in Rural areas.
The move announced yesterday will probably be supported by whites who have complained about the exemption of blacks from the draft of the past. But it is likely to result in many black Rhodesians leaving the country and possibly joining guerrilla forces.
The Patriotic Front's guerrillas, operating from camps in Mozambique and Zambia, have stepped up the war since the March agreement in an attempt to undermine the government and gain control of an independent Zimbabwe. The Patriotic Front has about 9,000 troops inside Rhodesia who increasingly have aimed their attacks against white civilians.
The Rhodesian security forces include the army, police officers and about 35,000 reservists. White men between the ages of 25 and 38 spent 190 days a year in reserve units and those between 38 and 50 spend 70 days. Three-quarters of the reservists are white.
Although his forces are thinly spread over this California-sized country, Smith recently ruled out general mobilization on the theory that it might increase the exodus of whites. When black conscription was considered last July, black high school students marched in protest.
[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] transition government. He said he was recruited by the Church of Christian Liberty, headed by the Rev. Paul Lindstrrom, who said in June he would send volunteers to reopen missions closed by the guerrillas.
Guerrillas operating from bases in Mozambique and Zambia have forced the closure of dozens of mission schools. Most missionaries from major churches don't carry arms. The Rhodesian military has blamed the guerrillas for the murders of 36 white missionaries and children in the past six years.
"We are not interested in dialogue or detente," said Pace. "We will shoot the bastards on sight." Pace faced the prospect of a cool reception from the main mission churches in Rhodesia.
"We will offer missions our help, even if it is only advice on fencing, alarms and security," he said. "If they don't want it, that's OK."