Caught in the travails of a war and eyed by a skeptical international community, Zimbabwe Rhodesia early today officially ended nine decades of white minority rule to face an uncertain future under its first black-led government.
There was little fanfare - no fireworks, new flag or new national anthem to mark the advent at midnight of the government of Bishop Abel Muzorewa.
In downtown Salisbury, however, about 200 black youths danced and sang around the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, founder of Rhodesia's white settler community in 1890. Someone hung a sign around the neck of the statue that read: "this place to let." When an older black man asked one of the youths why they had done that, he replied: "This statue is not needed any longer. It should be sold."
The new government begins life with more demands on it than any other black government to emerge on this continent.
About the only official action was a brief radio and television address by Bishop Muzorewa in which he made a strong appeal for leadership. "I ask you to devote all your physical, mental and spiritual energies to achieve elipsis in this wonderful land of ours a oneness which will be the envy of the whole world."
Outgoing Prime Minister Ian Smith, leader of the white minority government, reiterated yesterday his opposition to black majority rule.
"I am opposed to marjority rule which is based on race or color. I'm not opposed to majority rule based on other criteria or standards."
Smith said he would probably be asleep at midnight.
"Fortunately, I sleep very easily, I am not one of those people who mopes around the place because things have not gone my way. I am not a great believer in celebrations and parties and things."
The absence of fanfare tonight stems partially from the fact that little planning has been done for the occasion.
"We haven't yet chosen an independence day," said Deputy Minister for Information Ishmail Adam. "We haven't got a new flag, or anthem yet, that will all come later."
His remarks articulate what appears to be a distinction Muzorewa's officials are making between the installation of the first black government and the arrival of its true power.
"Now we've got to prove that we really have power," said a woman prominent in Muzorewa's party.
She was touching the core of the dispute over the Muzorewa government. Under the constitutional accord reached between the bishop and Smith March 3, 1978, whites retain a veto over major changes and are virtually guaranteed continued control in such crucial areas as military, police, civil service and the judiciary.
To the guerrilla chiefs, Joshua Nikomo and Robert Mugabe, who are fighting to topple the Muzorewa government, and to many both inside and outside Rhodesia, these guarantees to the whites mean they will continue to rule in fact if not in appearance.
The bishop's first, and if he fails his only, test is to end the war that has put more than 90 percent of the country under martial law and daily takes an average of a death an hour, mainly among the rural black population.
"His priority must be to end this senseless killing," said a leading white businessman who said most whites are giving the new black leader six months to do so before they decide whether they should leave the country. Already white emigration is three times what it was at the same period last year.
At a press conference yesterday, Smith said, "I hope that black politicians with whom we are working will now be able to deliver the goods and bring about a cessation, or at least a diminution in terrorism . . . the thing they have been promising for a long time."
Ironically, Smith categorically declared earlier at the press conference that the six-year-old guerrilla war had nothing to do with his decision to make the 1978 pact with moderate black leaders that led to Muzorewa's new government. Instead, Smith said, "it was the agreement which we made at that meeting in Pretoria." This was a reference to the talks he had with U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who got Smith to abandon white minority rule.
Smith admitted to reporters that "there are growing numbers of terrorists in the country." He added that, although there is hope many will lay down their arms under the government's safe return policy, "This is speculation, we will have to wait and see."
It is not only the whites, however, who are adopting a wait-and-see attitude to the new government.
"We'll have to see what changes come now," said John Nyambuko, a doorman, when asked what thought about the new government. "We live very badly in the location [African township] you know."
Nyambuko and his 6 million fellow blacks in Zimbabwe Rhodesia present Muzorewa with a "crisis of expectations" of tremendous proportions as they wait to see lives a black-led government will make.
Meeting that crisis is a major task in any developing country but for Muzorewa it is made monumental by the economic sanctions imposed on the Smith government after it declared Rhodesia's independence from Britain. Getting the sanctions lifted ranks second only to a peace settlement among the bishop's priorities.
One of the first pressures the Muzorewa government will face from the whites is to get more blacks involved in the war effort - hardly a popular position for any politician to have to take. Now that a black government has taken over, whites are more reluctant to endure the long stints, for some men adding up to 180 days a year; fighting guerillas in the bush.
Smith said yesterday, that "the white man is at the moment carrying the lion's share, and I believe he will have to, I hope only for a little while . . . into the future. Just hope they will continue for a bit longer. I hope it won't be too long, because if they don't, then our country collapses." CAPTION: Picture, IAN SMITH . . . "I sleep very easily"