The Patriotic Front military leadership today ordered all guerrillas who have not assembled as required under the Rhodesian cease-fire agreement to do so quickly.
In an unusual public statement, the four top commanders, two from each wing of the front, told the recalcitrant guerrillas that if they "refuse our orders, let it be clear to you that you have placed yourselves outside our command and control and therefore be prepared to face the consequences."
Any guerrilla who has not reported to an assembly camp is now subject to arrest or attack by the police or Rhodesian military.
British Gov. Lord Soames has authorized the military, until now disengaged from contract under terms of the cease-fire, to leave its bases as necessary and be used against lawless elements. Any guerrillas who still have not reported are regarded as unlawful under the terms of the peace agreement signed in London last month.
The guerrilla announcement was one more bit of evidence that the British-devised cease-fire agreement was working much better than most observers had expected when it came into effect just 10 days ago, officially ending seven years of warfare that killed more than 20,000 persons.
Just how much the atmosphere has changed was illustrated by a remark made by Dumisco Dabengwa, military intelligence chief for Joshua Nkomo's wing of the front. The goateed commander, dressed in fatigue uniform, referred to "our friends in the Rhodesian security forces."
Reporters, after years of hearing barbs exchanged across hostile borders between the front and the Rhodesian military, checked notes with each other to make certain they had heard Dabengwa correctly.
Not all was sweetness and light, however. The commanders said they had complained to the cease-fire commission about the activities of auxiliaries, who come under the security forces but are politically loyal to former prime minister Abel Muzorewa, and about the continued presence of South African troops in this British colony.
Dabengwa also gave the first public figure by the front on the number of guerrillas still to report, saying 2,000 to 3,000 were still outside camps. British sources declined to comment on the estimate but it is only slightly less than the 3,500 estimate given by a security force spokesman today.
Dabengwa said 19,000 had now reported. Acknowledging that the total of those reporting and still out, about 22,000, was the maximum number of armed guerrillas in the country, he said others were not armed and therefore did not qualify. Previously the front claimed 31,000 guerrillas but other Rhodesians estimated there were about half that number.
The four commanders, Rex Nhongo and Josiah Tungamirai of Robert Mugabe's wing of the front and Lookout Masuku and Dabengwa of Nkomo's, emphasized in their joint statement that their assembled troops were the legal forces of Gov. Soames.
This was to emphasize their status as equals of the Rhodesian security forces, a key point of the Front in the London negotiations. The commanders did not, however, complain that the governor had only ordered out the Salisbury government's forces to deal with the "lawlessness in the country" -- a phrase generally interpreted to refer to crime committed by the guerrillas. Dabengwa said the front forces could be used against the renegade guerrillas.
More than 50 persons have been killed in the 10 days since the Rhodesians disengaged and the front started to assemble. The British government has deplored the toll but pointed out that figures often were far higher during the war.
A tour of some police and military commands north of Salisbury and talks with several members of the Commonwealth force monitoring observance of the cease-fire indicated general satisfaction by both parties at how the truce had gone so far.
Many analysts thought that the governor's authorization yesterday of security force action against recalcitrant guerrillas would lead to a sharp escalation of bloodshed, with the Rhodesian forces viewing the move as a last opportunity to settle scores with the guerrillas. There have been no such reports so far.