Two days after the results of the April general elections for Rhodesia's first black-led government were announced, Bishop Abel Muzorewa's party was celebrating its big win at the pools.
A noisy caravan of 30 busloads of the bishop's partisans paraded through the white city center. They were chanting victory slogans and from the top of buses waving branches of green jacaranda leaves at the lunchtime crowds lining the streets to watch.
Black onlookers gave clenched fist salutes and smiles of solidarity while slighty nervous whites filled with mixed emotions cracked jokes to disguise hidden doubts about their future.
"If that's all independence means, I guess we can stand it," quipped on white of the coming black rule over Rhodesia's dwindling European population as he looked at the Africans dancing precariously atop the swaying buses.
It was like independence celebrations everywhere else in black Africa during the last 30 years. But there was one huge difference-a guerrilla war raged throughout the country, and neither whites nor blacks were quite sure the new black government could survive.
Never in the colonial history of Africa has a transfer of power been surrounded by so many doubts. This series will explore some of these issues and questions, including:
Are the 230,000 whites really handing over power after 90 years to the country's 6.8 million blacks or was the election just a confidence trick to fool Africans and the outside world?
Can moderate black nationalists led by a mild-mannered Methodist bishop really cooperate in the proposed "government of national unity" with their heretofore white masters or will old attitudes prevail to make southern Africa's first and fragile experiment in multiracial power sharing a failure? Will the black moderates themselves maintain unity?
Can the new Muzorewa government bring an end to the guerilla was devastating the land and ripping apart the fabric of bothe black and white societies?
Will the West, primarily London and Washington, recognize it? Will even moderate African states extend a helping hand or will the new "Zimbabwe-Rhodesia" become just another pariah state of southern Africa like the Transkei, supported only by South Africa?
How will the outcome in Rhodesia affect the policy of South Africa, the key remaining white-minority government in Africa?
Will the African fron-line states hosting and promoting the Patriotic Front guerrillas hold out under the pounding they are taking from Rhodesian ground and air attacks? Or will they finally turn to the Soviets and Cubans for help and in the process turn the whole Rhodesian conflict into a battleground of the East-West struggle for influence in Africa?
One thing that seems clear is that the election has solidified the split between the warring black nationalist camps, one of moderates negotiating for compromise with the whites and another of radicals fighting for total control.
Yet, even the hard-liners are seriously divided among themselves within the shell of the umbrella Patriotic Front, threatening Zimbabwe with a second civil war and power struggle when and if the guerrillas succeed in ousting the moderates.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of this country's long-suffering Africans are caught in the middle of both the escalating war and three-way power struggle, totally confused as to what lies ahead for them and increasingly concerned only about staying alive another day.
No African country other than Angola Has ever acceded to independence in such horrendous wartime conditions.
The government works hard to keep up a semblance of British-style colonial "normality" to life in the capital and by and large succeeds remarkably well, but behind this thin and often punctured facade, Rhodesia is a besieged and very war-weary nation.
Blacks and whites combined have lost between 15,000 and 20,000 dead lost between 15,000 and 20,000 dead from the war. In a country the size of the United States, this would be the equivalent of between 500,000 and 600,000 dying.
"There isn't a black or white left in the country who hasn't felt the effects of this war in one way or another," remarked an international relief worker, reflecting on how he has watched the war closing in around the capital over the past two years. Today, he fears it is no longer safe to go on vacation anywhere outside the capital.
Begun in deadly earnest six years ago last December, the war has spread from the white farming area in the northern Centenary district to just about every corner of the countrtry, including the capital's normally placid downtown shopping center where bombs occasionally go off. All but 10 percent of the country is subject to martial law now.
A vistor at first does not sense the all-pervasive nature of the war upon arriving or staying in the usually serene and well-maintained capital. But a trip even to nearby towns and farms brings home the reality of the situation quickly.
There are curfews in force on the outskirts and even in the industrial section, signs a short distance out on the road leading north warning not to travel further along the road after 4 p.m. and residents advising the traveler to carry a gun in the car with him.
"Rhodesia is probably the only country in the world," remarked one Western resident reporter, "where you actually want to stop to pick up a [white] hitchhiker carrying a rifle, particularly if you don't have one yourself."
Another good yardstick of the magnitude of the war and human suffering befalling Rhodesia is the fact that International Committee of the Red Cross, the world's leading private disaster relief agency, now has its biggest operation anywhere outside its Geneva headquarters here in Rhodesia.
Yet, the government does everything possible to play down the scope of the war, using censorship, restricting reporters' travel to the countryside and relating in tersely worded nightly communiques only the number of blacks and whites-civilians and military-killed in the past 24 hours. The only dead who have names, it seems, are whites and, increasingly, black security force members.
By mid-April, official statistics showed 14,039 persons had been killed inside Rhodesia. Of these 7,406 were "terrorists," as the government calls the guerrillas, 3,399 civilians (all but 424 of them black) and 2,333 "terrorist collaborators" or Affricans caught in crossfires.
If one adds the various thousands of refugees and guerrillas killed in Rhodesian ground and air raids into Zambia, Mozambique and Angola over the past three years, the total dead must come close to 20,000.
What the war communiques cannot hide is that at least one person dies every hour of the day now in the war. If Africans are not shot as collaborators or crossfire victims, they are killed, as the government loves to relate, by the guerrillas "sellouts" in various horrible ways or blown up by their land mines.
The sheer terror of life in the rural areas today was brought home during the elections when for the first time in years foreign correspondents were allowed to travel freely or were taken by the government to many of the tribal trust lands, or African reserves. From their eyes, quivering hands and questions, it was clear that many of the blacks were terrified of what the guerillas might do to them for voting and what the government or their white farm employers would do if they did not.
Tales of terror abound among the Africans living in the comparable safety of the black townships around Salisbury.
"You can be shot by security forces, the [party] auxilliaries or the guerrillas," explained one black businessman. He had been beaten up by Muzorewa's auxiliaries, who also vandalized his motel, and no longer dares go back to his home in the tribal trust land just outside Salisbury.
"There are so many armies, or people in uniform, you don't even know who is who any more," he added.
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace estimates the number of Africans who have migrated to the cities to flee the war at 50,000. But this is a vast underestimation. Just in the African townships of the eastern border town of Umtali, the population has grown by 43,000, or more than doubled in size, in the past several years.
Unofficially, the Red Cross office here estimates the flight from the countryside to the cities in the hundreds of thousands.
The deteriorating state of things in the countryside is also brought home in the Catholic commission's latest report on the war, where it details the closing of dozen of hospitals an clinics and hundreds of schools. The report also speaks of spreading malnutrition and even starvation, resulting from the closing of mills and destroying of granaries in guerrilla-ridden areas by security forces.
The was affects whites a lot less but still has made life fraught with dangers and the threat of death anywhere outside the main cities and towns. Every white seems to carry a gun. On the farms, whites live almost like caged animals behind barricades of all sorts-sandbags, barbed wire fences - sometimes electrified - antigrenade screens and special gun emplacements.
Increasingly, whites and even blacks travel in armed convoys along all secondary roads and even on a number of main highways. Both are frequent victims of ambushes and land mines and the latest tragedies are a subject of constant conversation among whites taking their afternoon tea at Salisbury's fashionable Meikles Hotel lobby.
Plane travel, too, has become extremely hazardous since guerrillas shot down two Air Rhodesia passenger Viscount planes with Soviet-made surface-to-air missiles last year, resulting in more than 100 deaths. Planes taking off even from Salisbury's international airport circle round and round to gain altitude before leaving the capital area and those landing come in at night with all lights off.
Few whites, however, seem to hold grudges against Prime Minister Ian Smith, who led them in the unilateral declaration of independence from Britain in November 1965 that has led to all this death and destruction.
One exception is Pennie Shakespeare, a white farmer's wife living in the northwestern Karoi area.
"We lost our beautiful boy and my husband, his brother within six months. It's all been for nothing now and we had 15 years to fix things up with the Africans," she said bitterly as she watched their black farm workers lining up to vote for majority rule. CAPTION: Picture, Rhodesian youths at a nationalist camp in Zambia take guerrilla training with wooden rifles. Peter Marlow/Sygma; Map, no caption, By Dave Cook-The Washington Post