"Just like your commander said, it's going to be like a woman you want to propose to, it's going to take some time," Rhodesian Maj. Gen. Bert Barnard told guerrilla troops this week.
Since most of his 5,800 listeners were young men between 14 and 30 years of age, they grasped the analogy Barnard and his former guerrilla foe, Commandant Rex Nhongo, were using to explain the most sensitive and crucial exercise of Rhodesia's transition to independence and peace -- the integration of the government and guerrilla armies, bitter enemies for seven long years of war.
Integration of the two armies has taken on increased urgency with only days left before a new black government comes to power and the British Commonwealth-monitored cease-fire runs out. Three days of voting in Rhodesia's black majority elections ended tonight with a record 2.6 million blacks having voted by 3 p.m. Results are to be announced Tuesday.
It was in this atmosphere that the two military commanders had flown by helicopter into this remote guerrilla assembly point in the last week before the voting.
In a grassy field, lush with rain-soaked greenery, they stood surrounded by a steel fence of 5,800 Soviet-designed automatic rifles cradled in the arms of their young audience.
"When you see the Rhodesian security and police forces, see them as friends," Nhongo, the leader of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA), told his troops.
"They are not coming here to monitor you like the British, they are coming here to work alongside you, to help you," Barnard assured them.
"I don't mean to say they are the victors, or that you are the victors. It's been a draw match," Nhongo explained diplomatically.
"The British are not here to stay forever, and we must make sure that there is trust between us," Barnard said. "We have fought the war. The war is now over."
Like a crackling brush fire, a murmuring of doubt swept through the major general's audience at his last remark, the only reaction from an otherwise impassive reception.
Despite their commander's assurances, the guerrillas find it surprising to hear there is an end to hostilities. They have been at Foxtrot for almost two months while their Rhodesian counterparts move about the country freely. Their leader, Mugabe, is not yet in power. They worry about the Rhodesian forces possibly attacking Foxtrot and the 13 other assembly points when the British monitors leave.
They had questions for Nhongo.
"Are we going to give up our guns and take [Western-made] ones?
"What about the security force auxiliaries? (a section of the Rhodesian security forces loyal to Mugabe's rival, Bishop Abel Muzorewa).
"In the camps, will we be mixed or separate, will we sleep together?"
"That's a good question," Nhongo replied. "When you want to propose to a woman, do you first thing fondle her breasts? No, you shake hands and it goes step-by-step from there," Nhongo told his men and women -- there are 400 female guerrillas at Foxtrot -- with a smile.
"He's got good charisma," Barnard said aloud, approving of the way Nhongo handled the questions.
At the end of the open-air briefing, the armed youths agreed to try it. "The causes of the war were not because we wanted to fight, but to get rid of injustice," said Pedzisai Hondo, one of Nhongo's officers. "We have to sit and chat together and solve Zimbabwe's problems together," he said.
Of everyone at Foxtrot that day, probably Errol Tozer was most nervous. He looked it. Tozer, 25, heads the 20-man Rhodesian Army unit that entered Foxtrot Monday as the first stage to introduce the two armies to each other. Similar units have moved into other assembly points.
"It was a bit tense at first," said Maj. Tim Purdon of the Irish Guards, who heads the 50-member Commonwealth monitoring team at Foxtrot. "Some of the ZANLA soldiers spat at the Rhodesian trucks as they came in," he said. But by the next day, the ice had been broken.The guerrillas and Tozer's 16 black soldiers were on friendly speaking terms.
"It's part of the plan to ease tensions," said Tozer, 25, a soil conservationist by trade.
Early today, trucks revved through a muddy road to bring two polling booths to Foxtrot so its residents, like those at other assembly points, could join their compatriots in voting.
They lined up to cast their ballots under the watchful eyes of Rhodesian and British police and the Commonwealth monitoring forces. Nhongo flew in from Salisbury to cast his ballot with his men here.
Tichatonga, a young guerrilla, displayed the usual wariness of his comrades toward questions about his vote.
"I voted for the cock," he said softly, drawing sullenly on a cigarette and looking directly into his questioner's eyes. Mugabe's party symbol is the rooster, a traditional African totem indicating a respected one, the father of the community. The British government vetoed Mugabe's first choice for a polling symbol -- a Soviet-designed AK47 assault rifle.
It is hoped that the small Rhodesian presence in the assembly points will dissipate the guerrillas' fears that they are going to be attacked by the Rhodesian forces.
"We also feel safer now," said one of the monitoring soldiers who had shared the guerrillas' apprehensions of what the Rhodesians might do.
There is hope too that with this fear gone, the guerrillas will elect to follow orders and remain in the assembly points until the new government comes in. But that depends largely on who wins the election and forms the next government.
"How long do you think it will take before you feel relaxed here?" Tozer was asked earlier this week.
He laughed nervously, licked his lips, and slowly shook his head.