Rhodesia

Britain's new-old colony of Rhodesia finally got its first day of sunshine yesterday after two days of un-African gray skies and drizzle, leading some cynics to wonder whether the new British Governor, Lord Soames, brought London's weather with him.

The bright sunshine made all the more striking the incongruous situation in Salisbury's Cecil Square, the epitome of British colonialism, where the breeze gently whipped the flag of the unrecognized, defunct government of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.

There was no British flag flying in the square, which has witnessed three flag-raising ceremonies in the last 10 days, each depicting the changing fortunes of this former colony turned pariah state and now once more a colony pending independence elections.

Traditionally, the rites of passage from being a British colony to gaining independence had included a midnight ceremonial lowering of the Union Jack followed by the running up of the flag of the new nation.

Apparently, Britain's program of recolonization to achieve decolonization, instituted to produce an independent Zimbabwe in three months, does not include a formal raising of the Union Jack.

The absence of the British flag, except at the governor's residence, is part of the low-key approach adopted so far by Soames, who does not wish to rock the boat and upset the outgoing government or its white supporters, who share no love for Britain.

In some ways it parallels the course adopted by former prime minister Abel Muzorewa, the country's first black leader, when he took office in June. To the annoyance of many blacks, Muzorewa seemed to concentrate on not upsetting the whites after their 89 years of supremacy rather than on doing much for Africans.

SALISBURY CONTINUES to be nonchalant about the change in government and the likelihood of more changes soon. When interviewed most people say they have been through this wringer too many times before and they will not believe a deal is in hand until the Patriotic Front comes aboard, and maybe not even then.

Even the Front's rejection yesterday of Britain's "final" deadline did not produce much reaction.There have been so many last chances that few are ruling out another.

Meanwhile, the streets are crowded with Christmas shoppers and legal parking spots are at a premium.

With schools on vacation, lines start forming for movie matinees early in the morning. One of the most popular shows is a "Muppet" movie, perhaps appropriate in this sad, war-torn land where fact and fantasy seem to merge.

GOVERNOR SOAMES is hardly a household name to most Africans. On Wednesday, the day he took power, a waiter in a restaurant asked his boss what she thought of Lord Soames. The only trouble was that he said "Lord Samoosa," pronouncing it like the word for the three-cornered Indian meat pastries.

"Well," chimed in a listener, "it could have been worse. He could have said Somoza."

A women's boutique probably wishes the mistake it has to deal with was so simple. Somehow it was assigned the phone number that had been used by guerrilla leader Joshua Nkomo's political party before it was banned.

With the return of Nkomo and the legalization of his party felt to be imminent, the shop is being flooded with phone calls from angry whites opposing Nkomo because his guerrillas shot down two airliners, killing more than 100 persons.

The Herald, Rhodesia's main daily newspaper, is gingerly entering the world of the unknown as it begins to use the names of Nkomo and his coleader in the Patriotic Front, Robert Mugabe, in the newspaper, despite a ban under the former government on publishing their names.

Their organization is still called terrorist, but the paper is apparently hedging its bets a bit. It usually just talks about the Patriotic Front, also a banned term in the old days.

A MOOD OF self-examination has settled over some white Rhodesians.

A farmer sarcastically said the other day that it was hard to find a single white these days who supported former prime minister Ian Smith's unilateral declaration of independence in 1965.

Yet, of course, he noted, almost all of them did. White Rhodesians, if nothing else, are resilient. The tenor of his remarks was: the declaration was an experiment; it didn't work; now it's over; it's time to try another approach.

Even in this mood of sardonic reappraisal, however, reminders of Rhodesia's problems over racial attitudes remain.

"We've prided ourselves on our bloody superiority," a businessman said. "Now we've got the Fijians coming here to monitor our cease-fire -- that is the crowning insult."