The Zimbabwe government today announced a long-term economic policy designed to establish a socialist society, but the statement appeared to present little threat to the newly independent country's white-dominated capitalist structure.
Bernard Chidzero, minister of economic planning and development, said at a news conference that the government intended "to establish an egalitarian and socialist society under democratic conditions."
The 19-page policy statement was sharply critical of the white-oriented economy established under nine decades of white-minority government before blacks gained power last year. It was clear, however, that the changes envisaged are designed to modify the present system rather than to carry out any wholesale transformation.
The long-awaited policy declaration was one more indication that despite maintaining the rhetoric of socialism, Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, a Marxist, has no intention of rushing toward his goal.
"I don't get the impression that public ownership of the means of production is just around the corner," a Western diplomat commented.
Another said the document was written with a Western audience in mind since Zimbabwe is seeking massive infusions of Western capital and aid. About 45 countries and several international financial institutions have been invited to a donors' conference to be held next month, at which Zimbabwe is hoping to get pledges of almost $2 billion in aid.
In some cases the government statement seemed to be redefining socialism to mean joint ventures involving the government ventures involving the government and domestic or foreign businesses.
"We want to see how the public and private sectors can cross-fertilize and grow in harmony," Chidzero said.
Chidzero said the rural economy would be a key area for implementation of socialist policies, citing plans to develop cooperatives and state farms.
The report said: "The government foresees the setting up of small- and medium-scale manufacturing and commercial enterprises around small centers . . . A significant number of such enterprises could be cooperatively owned and run, thereby extending socialist and popular democratic participation in the ownership and management of the nation's resources."
The statement declared that "no one should enjoy absolute ownership" of land, but under questioning Chidzero was careful to say this did not mean the current system of privately owned land would be changed.
Chidzero said government plans for communal resettlement were mainly aimed at abandoned and underutilized property.
The investment section of the document contained this unsocialist sounding statement: "Government will encourage and welcome the participation of private enterprise in productive activities which create employment opportunities for Zimbabweans and which make a net contribution to the economy."
The government also said it welcomed foreign investment in a number of fields as long as there was domestic participation in the company "within a reasonable period of time."
Chidzero called for a "healthy balance" between foreign and domestic investment.
The report emphasized the need to reduce the gap between white and black income, saying it was "grossly unjust and could well be a threat to the peace and social stability of the country."
It said that to reduce unemployment and absorb the rapidly growing labor force the economy must grow at an annual rate of at least 8 percent. Last year's growth rate was estimated at 10 percent after a zero rate in 1979, the last year of the guerrilla war for independence.
Chidzero said the policy statement is intended as a framework for the country's first national development plan, which is scheduled to be announced in July.
He has estimated that the three-year plan will require about $6.4 billion in funds, about half of which is expected to come from the private sector.
The government says it expects to obtain about 60 percent of the remainder from grants and loans generated by next month's conference.
Citing past pledges of aid for a black-majority government once independence was achieved, Chidzero said last month that the $300 million in assistance pledged "so far has been very disappointing."