Rhodesia's interim government yesterday abolished all statutory racial discrimination bt approved a system that preserves the privileges enjoyed by the country's white minority.
Instead of overt racial discrimination, the four-man biracial council established economic and cultural requirementss that will effectively limit access of Rhodesia's 6.7 million blacks to housing, education and medical care now used by the 230,000 whites.
As a result, the immediate impact of the lifting of racial discrimination is likely to be very limited. Economic requirements alone appear formidable since an average white has an annual income of $9,240, or 11 times that of an average black.
Yesterday's decision coincided with the current visit to the United States by Prime Minister Ian Smith, leader of the white minority, and his black colleague on the ruling council, the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole. They are trying to drum up support for the eight-month-old interim government.
Bishop Abel Muzorewa, another black member of the council who is acting head of the interim government, said he expected the elimination of segregation laws would "definitely" help "sell" the biracial experiment in the West, especially the United States.
"Discrimination is finished, scrapped," he said. "I'm so happy I could jump off the top of the roof."
The new plans for limited integration, according to Rowan Cronje, white cominister of education and health, are designed to "retan the high standards to which both [whites and blacks] have become accustomed."
He said that racial restrictions are replaced by "monetary discrimination," which, he said, is practiced in every country outside Easter Europe.
Many blacks expressed disappointment, seing in the move an attempt by the government to defuse black resentment that has fueled an escalating guerrilla war.
The white-dominated government has been roundly criticized for taking so long to abolish all racial discrimination. Last August, moves to end segregation in hotels, theaters, swimming pools, public toilets and trading areas were greeted with scorn by both criticis and supporters of the government.
Black leaders have claimed that the continued racial discrimination was a major reason for the growing guerrilla struggle in the countryside.
In a reference to this, Muzorewa said yesterday, "I believe that those who were genuinely fighting to correct things like this should now see that this is what they wanted."
The new regulations in theory open white residential areas, hospitals and schools to blacks. But a three-tiered arrangement would be introduced.
In the school system, for instance, one tier would comprise schools with high tuition fees - essentially the present all-white schools - to which black children would now be admitted if their parents lived in the zone marked for that school, if they are proficient in English and meet academic requirements.
The other two tiers would be made up of schools with either lower tuition fees or no fees at all. Private schools could continue Cronje said, and "community" schools to be run by independent directors and state-paid teachers would also be set up. Entry to community schools would not be denied solely on racial grounds, Cronje said.
White residential areas would be opened to all races, but laws to retain the "present standards and character" of these neighborhoods would be enacted, Cronje said. He cited tightened health and building regulations and laws restricting occupancy of a house to one family. Property owners could still refuse to sell or lease to anyone on racial grounds.
The present health system, which is a combination of a national public health scheme primarily for blacks who pay minimal fees and a private system for whites who pay higher rates, will be kept. The difference however, is that now blacks may enter private hospitals formerly reserved for whites if they can afford it.
Yesterday's decisions also incuded liftings of restrictions on whites to do business in the tribal trust lands which are set aside for the blacks under Rhodesia's land tenure act.
The government's decisions have to be approved by parliament, which is dominated by whites. All the measures affecting schools and medical care, however, will be incorporated into the clauses of the majority rule constitution for an independent Rhodesia. This means that they would not be altered without the votes of the 28 whites who will be guaranteed seats in the proposed 100-member legislative assembly under majority rule.
For many blacks, institutionalization of economic barriers is merely the continuation of discrimination. "If there is no more money for the people, the can't leave," said a 40-year-old messenger. "So nothing has changed." A sales clerk comented: "Only the well off are going to benefit from this."