Prime Minister Robert Mugabe today marked the first anniversary of black rule for Zimbabew, born from Africa's bloodiest guerrilla war, by continuing the country along its moderate path of change and offering an unusual olive branch to South Africa.
In an independence day speech, Mugabe outlined plans to speed programs for black advancement in land resettlement, government employment, education, health and housing. He gave few details, however.
Mugabe appealed to the people of Zimbabew for "unity and hard work" to achieve progress in what was essentially a reiteration of policies that have won him acclaim in the West.
In an interview on government television and radio last night, Mugabe pledged his country to "peaceful co-existence" with South Africa despite "hostile acts" by its white-minority government.
"Although we are opposed to the politic of South Africa, we do not regard the people of South Africa as our enemies at all," he said.
The olive branch had a hedge -- Mugabe's customary criticism of South Africa's racial segregation and its refusal to grant independence to Namibia. But Mugabe's conciliatory remarks were unusual for the leader of one of the so-called front-line African nations confronting Pretoria over white rule.
Zimbabew is economically dependent on South Africa, which spent billions of dollars to support the previous white-minority rule during 15 years of independence as Rhodesia. At that time most of the world refused to recognize the Rhodesian government.
South Africa is Zimbabewe's biggest trading partner and most imports and exports use South Africa's ports and railways.
Last month South Africa gave the required one-year notice that it intends to cancel a preferential trade agreement that is a holdover from the period of white rule.
Mugabe said in the interview that the government was concerned about South Africa's "aggressive and hostile activities against us" and added, "We expect that she might proceed to take even sterner measures against us."
Mugabe said it was important to distinguish between political and trade relations and said Zimbabwe would "continue to maintain trade relations with South Africa to the extent that South Africa makes it possible for us to do so."
Cities were decorated with bunting for independence day, and celebrations, mostly low-key were held throughout the country featuring military bands, traditional dancers and sporting events