President Kenneth Kaunda said today that a Zimbabwe-Rhodesian embargo on corn shipments to drought-strcken Zambia would not deter his country's support for guerillas fighting for power in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.
"We refuse to be daunted," the president said during the presentation of credentials by the new Iraqi ambassador. "This unwarranted pressure will not derail the country's commitment to see that a just peace is achieved in southern Africa."
In his generally low-key response to Salisbury's escalating economic war, Kaunda noted that the country had enough stockpiles of corn, the staple diet of Zambians, for the present.
The Salisbury government, fighting an expanding seven-year war with the guerrillas, yesterday said it was cutting off all corn shipments through the country to Zambia until Lusaka stops guerrilla infiltrations across the border.
Washington Post correspondent Caryle Murphy reported from Johannesburg that South African authorities today indicated agreement with the Salisbury government's decision.
"This most recent development once more underlines the urgent necessity that peace and stability, which is at present being disturbed by terrorism, should be reached at the very soonest," said South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha.
A series of Zimbabwe-Rhodesian attacks on Zambian transport routes has left the country with only an inadequate road route to Tanzania to bring in corn imports.
[Despite the cutoff in corn shipments, Reuter from Salisbury today quoted a Zimbabwe-Rhodesian railway spokesman as saying that the main railway crossing at Victoria Falls remained open for the movement of other traffic, including copper. Zambia depends on copper for 90 percent of its foreign exchange.]
There has been fears in diplomatic circles that the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian action could complicate the delicate nine-week-old British-sponsored talks in London between the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian government of Prime Minister Abel Muzorewa and the Patriotic Front guerillas.
After day-long meetings by government and agriculture officials, however, Kaunda refrained from any harsh response, probably also mindful of the possibility of causing panic among his own people over a food crisis.
There were long lines at mills in Lusaka this morning for corn meal, which is already in short supply because of government efforts to conserve, but queues have become commonplace in Zambia as the landlocked country's transportation problems have mounted.
Despite the threat of eventual widespread food shortage because of the Rhodesian action, Zambia does not face an immediate food crisis. Zambia, which has only had to import corn once in the 15 years since independence, needs about 675,000 tons a year to be brought to market for consumption.
It is having to import almost half that amount this year because of the drought but it has stockpiles that would last through March, three months before the new crop comes in.
If the London talks succeed, a British governor would replace Muzorewa temporarily until new elections and there would be little question of an embargo being maintained, thus allowing corn shipments long before a food shortage resulted. Short of other action, the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian move means that Zambia must bank on a settlement in London.