An official American delegation to the Zimbabwe independence celebrations arrived here today bringing a message of friendship and willingness to provide aid for the government of Prime Minister Robert Mugabe.
Words of praise from the U.S. envoys, former ambassadors Averell Harriman and Andrew Young, were undoubtedly welcome to Mugabe, a self-professed Marxist who has been seeking to build bridges to the West since his election last month ended 90 year's of domination by white Rhodesians.
Speaking at a news conference, Harriman called Mugabe a "very" wise" leader. Young, coleader of the American delegation, described him as a world statesman and future leader of the nonaligned countries.
The new American support for Mugabe, who until recently was regarded with suspicion by American offficials because of his Marxist idealogy, comes as Mugabe has administered repeated rebuffs to Soviet bloc efforts to mend fences.
The Soviets and their allies supported the other Patriotic Front guerrilla leader, Joshua Nkomo, who has formed a coalition with Mugabe although sharing little power. The only significant aid Mugabe's guerrillas received from Eastern Europe came from mavericks Yugoslavia and Romania.
As a result Mugabe has refused to invite East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia to the independence celebrations. He also let it be known that he invited the Soviet Union only because it was a super-power and had to be asked, especially since the United States was coming.
Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Leonid Ilichev was snubbed earlier this month when Mugabe refused to allow him in the country in advance of the celebrations and also declined a profereed meeting when both were in Lusaka, Zambia.
To add insult to injury, China and Albania, two arch-foes of the Soviets in the comminist world, have been invited, along with Yugoslavia, Romania and Cuba.
In contrast to the warmth of the American remarks, the Soviet delegation merely issued a formal statement on arrival last night calling for the two countries to "develop relations and friendship and cooperation."
Possibly the most welcome American statement came from Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Africa subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee.
Mindful that Zimbabwe needs hundreds of millions of dollars to recover from a 7-year war, Solarz said, "I believe that the West in general and our country in particular have not only a responsibility but an obligation to provide Zimbabwe with the resources it will need."
Mugabe told a news conference earlier today that resettlement of more than a million people displaced by the fighting and repairing thousands of schools and hospitals would be priority matters for his government.
American AID officials said the United States will shortly provide $2 million to cover most of the cost of rebuilding 159 rural clinics.
The money is part of a $15 million allocation for Zimbabwe for this year that has hurriedly been put together after Mugabe's election from contingency funds. Given the politics of U.S. aid programs, such rapid action is rare.
World leaders began arriving in Salisbury today for the celebrations. Prince Charles, representing the British royal family, and British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington, architect of the Rhodesian settlement, arrived an hour apart.
Among the prominent leaders expected are prime Ministers Indira Gandhi of India and Malcolm Fraser of Australia, Presidents Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan, Shehu Shagari of Nigeria and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim.
Aside from the East bloc, Mugabe has also played tough with Zaire and Malawi, two African countries that were known to have dealings with the Rhodesian government of Ian Smith. President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire and Hastings Banda of Malawi sought to come to Salisbury but were asked to send lower-level of delegations.
Among the various delegates, Young probably had the single distinction of having forgotten his passport.
Britain's Prince Charles paid a surprise visit to a poor black family's simple home in Salisbury and startled a woman and her eight children. They thought it was a police raid.
"I didn't know he was the prince," said Stella Makwara, whose driver husband away at work at the time. "There were so many uniforms with him."
Ransford Makwara, 25 and unemployed, darted into an outside bathroom when the royal entourage arrived at the back door as his mother was cooking beans for supper and chatting with neighbors.
The unannounced royal visit in Salisbury's sprawling Glen Norah African township came as the heir to the British throne spent a busy day meeting Rhosesian leaders. "He just pointed to a typical house and said he wanted to pop in," an aide to the prince said after the five-car motorcade stopped at the Makwara home. "He often does things like that."
The prince is the first royal family member to visit Rhodesia since the Queen Mother came here in 1960.