Blacks jubilantly celebrated Robert Mugabe's overwhelming electoral victory, but the news sent waves of anxiety, gloom and anger through a shocked white population.
The intense and opposing emotions served to confirm that this time the passage of power from white to black was real for they contrasted sharply with the subdued response on the June night last year when Bishop Abel Muzorewa was installed as Rhodesia's first black prime minister under a constitution that left whites virtually in full control.
"Now we are getting the country in the right way," said Reeds Masango, 19, as Main Road in the black township of Highfield throbbed with boys and girls shouting "Forward with the rooster." The rooster, symbol of a respected father figure, was Mugabe's campaign symbol.
As armored personnel carriers full of white soldiers lumbered through the streets and helicopter gunships, their weapons in place, hovered above the crowds, Raphael Chandafiraganda, 18, made his way to reporter to explain how he felt.
"Since 1890 we have been under the yoke of oppression. The white man denied our fathers the equal rights they deserved. Now this is 1980, the year of the people's power. Through the revolutionary armed struggle our brothers have given our people the freedom they have painstakingly struggled to achieve," said Chandafiraganda, dressed in his high school uniform.
Rhodesia's 7 million blacks, who gave Mugabe 63 percent of their votes, expect their new leader to bring changes. "We want our salaries increased, better accommodation and better education," said 17-year-old Lillian Murombedzi.
For the 200,000-strong white minority, Mugabe also represents change. Not only does his coming to power mean the end of 90 years of white rule, but it also places a self-described Marxist at the helm of what they have considered a bastion of anticommunist Western democracy.
"I'm flippin' bitter, I'm absolutely shocked," said Keith Parsons, 33, an electrical engineer. "This country is going to be forced to go communist. I lost to a lot of mates in this war -- and then to see a guy like this come to power." Parsons says he will move to South Africa.
When one of Mugabe's press aides called Parsons "my friend" during an impromptu conversation in a hotel lobby today, the young white Rhodesian angrily retorted that "I'm not your friend, let's get that quite straight . . . I don't want to be regarded as your friend."
For most whites, the biggest surprise was not Mugabe's win, but the gigantic lead he took over his main rival, Muzorewa, who gained only three seats in the 100-member National Assembly. Mugabe won 57 seats.
As a moderate, procapitalist leader, Muzorewa is seen as an ally of the whites. His poor showing caused dismay and "in some quarters, even shock," according to the white minister of lands and natural resources, Rowen Cronje.
Many whites attribute the massive swing from Muzorewa, who got 64 percent of the poll last year, to intimidation of voters by thousands of Mugabe guerrillas who have not yet reported to the cease-fire assembly points. The fear that the war would resume unless Mugabe won caused many people to vote for the former guerrilla leader, they say.
"I do not believe the vote truly reflects support for either Muzorewa or Mugabe," Cronje said in an interview."It is more a vote for peace."
Blacks, on the other hand, say dissatisfaction with the bishop was his downfall. "When he got into power he did nothing for the people," said Masango. "He intensified the military call-up instead of increasing our wages."
Muzorewa's devastating defeat left his diehard supporters bitter and angry. A car full of journalists who rode by his party's offices were accosted with bottles and stones by some of his workers who blame the press for his defeat.
In another incident, a group of women loyal to Muzorewa attacked a man on a passing bicycle who was unfortunate enough to mistake them for Mugabe supporters and began flapping his elbows like a rooster. He had to be rescued by passers-by.
Recovering from their shock and hoping to stop a dropping stock market, white politicians and business leaders directed their efforts today to calming the white population in order to avoid a precipitate exodus from the country.
"We have a great responsibility in getting people to calm down. To give the new government a chance," said Cronje who feels the whites have a role to play as a "stabilizing, moderating factor."
"After a situation of initial surprise and disappointment, I think whites will regain their equilibrium and their basic reaction will be, 'Let's make the best of a bad case,'" Cronje said, adding that "Mugabe is the least attractive of the candidates, let's be honest."
Even former prime minister Ian Smith, who a few weeks ago declared, "the Marxists cannot and will not learn now to lose gracefully," said one consolation said "I learned in London [during the peace settlement talk] that Mr. Mugabe is a far different person from the Marxist doctrines that surround his people. He is a pragmatist."
"The whites have lost, we must learn now to lose gracefully," said one white businessman, "What do they say in your country? If you get a lemon, make lemonade.' That's what we must do but we've got a really sour lemon."