Indications of Rhodesia's escalating war, which the white-dominated bi-racial government was ment to end, are everywhere. A map of the areas of Rhodesia now under martial law appears on the front page of a newspaper. A story relates the launching of a "bomb awareness" campaign in the schools.
The jails, emptied of political prisoners as a gesture of good will shortly after the interim government was set up last March, are full again with more than 300 sympathizers of the guerrilla organizations that oppose the government. The black daily, Zimbabwe Times, has been banned for its editorial sympathy with guerrilla leader Joshua Nkomo's party.
"I just live without feeling," said one university-educated black woman. "I don't hope because I don't want to live under a delusion. At the same time, I don't want to despair because I don't want to stop living."
The woman, who asked not to be named, came back home to Rhodesia after four years of graduate work at an American university. She and her husband, who also holds an advance degree, backed the transitional government formed by Prime Minister Ian Smith and three moderate black leaders, Bishop Abel Muzorewa, the Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole and Chief Jeremiah Chirau.
Today this couple is disillusioned because that government has failed to act decisively in many important areas, particularly in winning over the guerrillas opposed to the government and in removing racial discrimination.
Many black supporters of the interim government are convinced that an all-parties conference, including the insurgents, under the auspices of the British and American governments would result in a delivery of Rhodesia to guerrilla leaders Nkomo and Robert Mugaby.
"We are only days away from agreeing to attend an all-party conference," said one Central Committee member of Muzorewa's United African National Congress. "Days away, I tell you, the all-party conference idea was at feaver pitch. And then [British Foreign Secretary David] Owen said that Nkomo should be regarded as the granddaddy of Rhodesian black nationalists. Well, that ended all thoughts of an all-party conference in our central committee. How could we believe the British would be impartial?"
In his 13th floor office, black cominister of transport and power, James Chikerema, however spoke of the necessity for an all-parties conference. "Sometime in the near future, there will be talks between the transitional government and the Patriotic Front [the guerrilla alliance]. I'm absolutely sure it will be very soon. There must be talks . . . We will talk.
"But never on the terms of the Patriotic Front," he hastened to add. "We are confident that our March 3 agreement [which set up the Salisbury biracial government] will be put on the agenda."
Addressing the issue which more than any other has stalled an all-parties conference, Chikerema said, "The guerrilla forces must be disbanded and they must undergo training. They are not trained to look after law and order and to defend this country. They are trained to destroy it. They would bring the country into a blood-bath and chaos."
Nkomo and Mugabe have said the government's white-led security forces must be disbanded.
As Chikerema speaks, his white secretary listens to the interview. She has been asked to "sit in for the ministry of information," he said. Later, at the ministry's offices, a white information officer explained, "We have to discipline our African ministers. Sometimes Muzorewa and Sithole turn up on television and we know nothing about it. We like to know these things," he said, smiling.
BUT THE INTERIM government is not faltering only because whites have failed to genuinely accept blacks as equals and to share power, but also because of personal rivalries among the three black leaders.
"Each one sees power within his grasp and each one wants it," said one source close to the government. These rivalries have hindered the much-needed unity in the government that was initially greeted by widespread skepticism about its ability to function.
Whites and blacks are cautiously hopeful that Smith's visit to the United States will lead to greater understanding of their problems and will "tilt" the American government toward the internal settlement. They have also been encouraged by Zambia's decision to reopen its border with Rhodesia and use the country's railroad. This will give the interim government more bargaining leverage with the Zambian-based guerrilla leader Nkomo, they argue.
But as the war worsens, as propects for a peace conference fade and as the transitional government falters, even to the point of considering the postponement of independence from Dec. 31 to sometime next year, whites are beginning to opt out of their no-win situation. White emigration is picking up after a lull following the inauguration of the black-white government seven months ago.
"It's not the military situation which is making them leave," one observer said. "It's the lack of any light at the end of the tunnel. That's what's cracking white morale more than anything else," he said.
Any of the 230,000 whites can leave, but the $6.7 million blacks cannot. "We are really suffering," said a black porter at one of Salisbury's hotels. "We just want peace. Right now we don't know whose side to be on because we don't know who is going to win," he explained.
The greatest fear of some blacks is that the current fighting, which claimed more than 800 lives last month, is only the prelude to a more bitter civil war between the two guerrilla factions of Nkomo and Mugabe - a conflict that will catch the entire black civilian population in the middle.
"Sometimes I think wars like this never end," one middle-class black woman sighed.