On the eve of Rhodesian's elections for the first black-dominated Parliament, the 6.8 million blacks of this war-exhausted country seem full of mixed emotions - hope, anger and fear.
Campaigning came to a close on Easter Sunday, and the voting for the 72 black members in the new 100 seat Parliament gets under way Tuesday and is to last through Saturday.
Apart from the presence of spiritualists, African drums and traditional songs, the voters are caught up in a real power struggle among their many leaders. Moreover, black Rhodesians are divided among themselves. Most often they are making up their minds whether to vote or not in the shadow of someone's gun.
The war has been an ever-present factor in this country which has fully mobilized its military and police forces against black nationalist gurerrillas who oppose Tuesday's vote and have threatened to disrupt it."
There are 2.8 million black voters eligible to participate for the first time in the electoral process, but no one knows how many of them will turn out.
In the middle-class African township of Highfield, on the outskirsts of Salisbury, Etherton Mpisanga, 42, who holds a degree from Princeton, is optimistic.
"I think people will vote," he said. "People are hoping something will come out of it. I don't think it will end the war. It will go on, for a while anyway. But we hope the new order will create conditions to bring about an end to the war."
"If we have black people take over the white government it might to be something about the frustrations blacks have been experiencing for sometime," said his wife Ruth. "It's not the answer to our problems but it may bring us closer to it."
Across Highfield in another poorer African Suburb, a young black and his wife emerging from their small oneroom apartment expressed an opposite opinion.
"I'm not voting," he said in a soft but set voice. "This is not a transfer of power. The constitution is fraud. Voting will not stop the war. Look, elections have already made it much worse."
His wife nodded in silent assent. Neither was anxious to be identified by name though he freely expressed his views.
Down the street, a recent black university graduate stood proudly polishing a brand new Datsun car outside his home. "Yes, I'm going to vote," he said. "I'm afraid. If I don't vote ... I could get into trouble. What happens if I say I didn't vote? I could lose my job."
In the cities' crowded black townships, five different parties are sending their partisans, some little more than young thugs, to bang at doors at all hours of the day and night, each pressing the Africans to vote for it.
The two leading contenders, Bishop Abel Muzorewa's United African National Council (UANAC) and Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole's Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), have both repeatedly accused each other of resorting to intimidation and denounced the misbehavior of the other's armed auxiliaries.
In the countryside, bewildered Africans are under the equally intense pressure from party auxiliaries, white farmers, soldiers and government officials to go vote and from nationalist guerrillas to boycott the election. Both sides come to them bearing arms to make their case.
The government-run radio and television, the white-run newspapers, white employers are all pounding away at the single theme: "Use your vote. Black and white Zimbabweans can and should vote for the black party of their choice."
The propaganda is appealling and seductive. "Your vote will help to stop the war. Your vote will help to open more schools. Your vote will bring better job opportunities. Your vote is your secret. Your vote is your right. We are all going to vote," says one of many colored full-page newspaper ads.
From neighboring Mozambique and Zambia, the nationalist guerrillas of Robert Mugabe and Joshua Knomo are broadcasting opposing advice. "The war will continue until we win...your vote is not secret...the whites will still be in control ... don't vote."
Muzorewa has appealed to all Africans living in the urban areas not to return to their rural homes in the Tribal Trust Lands, or reserves, as is their custom over Easter, "for your protection."
The guerrillas are urging just the opposite, that they go home and stay there for the duration of the elections - without voting. They are letting African buses go into the Trust Lands without ambushing them, but the word is the buses will not be allowed to return.
Many urban blacks seem to be staying put. "It's too dangerous now. You don't know who is going to shoot you - the Army, auxiliaries, terrorists," remarked one youth in Highfield.
There seems to be a growing consensus among outside observers, that the government will probably get a good majority of the 2.8 million Africans of eligible age to the polls next week.
Mpisaunga notes "the novelty of the thing" as one good reason blacks will vote. "We have never done it before," he said.
He compared it to the first time in the late 1950s when Africans were allowed to drink European beer. "People who never drank African beer before just went out and got drunk. You wanted to do it just because you couldn't before."
Mpisaunga predicted a turnout of "more than 55 percent" and then with a twinkle in his eye noted, "They don't want it too high or nobody will believe it, like the vote in Iran for an Islamic republic."
Another more cynical view of why a majority of Africans may turn out came from a black university lecturer who asked to remain anonymous:
"Sure people will vote. Every house in African suburbs has been registered by either the UNAC or ZANU and people have been told that if they are not seen at the polls they will be visited after elections.
"But they are irrevelant basically. The percentage is not important. People are voting to stop the war. But this will make the war worse," he commented. "Elections or no elections the war can only come to end if the warring factions come together."
Another opinion on why a majority will probably show up at the polls came from a white lawyer.
"Look, it's simple. The total number of Africans employed in this country is 908,000. If you roughly double this figure just to include wives, or one other voter in the family, you get somewhere around 1.8 million probable voters. That's around 64 percent of the total right there."