Cape Town — White South Africa generally has reacted with a mixture of thrilled alarm and horror to the runaway election victory of Robert Mugabe in Rhodesia. And while Mr. Mugabe's calm and conciliatory approach toward Rhodesian whites and his friendly overtures toward South Africa at the weekend calmed the whites considerably, they have been left probably more confused than ever.
The newspapers that support the Afrikaans National Party have been thrown into a tumult of comment.
Thousands of words are being devoted to the subject, often in front-page editorials urging the government to speed up policies that would give South African blacks a better deal and consequently "stop the same thing happening in South Africa."
For example, Die Vaderland (the Fatherland), a leading Afrikaans paper in Johannesburg, declared on its front page that shooting was no answer to South Africa's problems and that fighting (between white and black) would only delay things and "make them worse."
Instead, warned the paper, "We must not bluff ourselves, we are going to have to go much further and much faster than even the most liberal nationalist thinks . . . . The key is to declare what we are prepared to concede and what not. . . . This itself lies very far from where we stand politically at present."
It concludes: "In the meantime we must stand together and calm must be the watchword."
In Cape Town, Diw Burger, the granddaddy of Afrikaans daily newspapers and the National Party's official mouthpiece in Cape Province, said the first lesson of Mr. Mugabe's win was "he who wishes to hold on to everthing runs the risk of losing everything." In the light of this, there was much that had to be done in South Africa "at great speed."
"Firstly we shall have to make urgent work of giving to persons of color in South Africa an effective political voice," the paper said.
Although the system for achieving this would be "indigenous," there "must be no hint that it could be an attempt to shortchange people of color in favor of the whites."
The country's biggest Afrikaans newspaper, Rapport, also makes it clear that Mr. Mugabe's win has come as a tremendous shock.
The paper's political columnist wrote that the result has left whites in South Africa running around confused in all directions and that there is more than enough reason for alarm.
One reason, he explained, was that so few and had anticipated that Mr. Mugabe had such overwhelming support and that all those who were supposed to know what was happening were wrongly informed.
South African whites should also be alarmed, he wrote, because there now is a "communist belt" across South Africa's northern border, because 20,000 died in the Rhodesian war but "the power of the gun could not vanquish the might of the majority," and because white obstinacy and shortsightedness dragged Rhodesians deeper and deeper into the morass when "they would not come to a settlement though settlement terms were offered frequently."
There is also no doubt that the political shockwaves caused by Mr. Mugabe's victory have been an important factor in increasing the tensions between left- and righ-wing politicians in the National Party who now look as if they could lead to a serious break.
However, whereas whites have been considerably shaken by the Rhodesian result , black politicians generally have welcomed it as just one more clear lesson for the country's government.
Dr. Nthato Motlana, chairman of the important Committee of Ten in the huge Soweto tonwship near Johannesburg, said Mr. Mugabe's victory would have a "profound impact on South African blacks and encourage their struggle for true equality."
He said that "my only hope -- and it is just a hope -- is that the whites in power in South Africa will interpret the result correctly and set afoot moves to bring about a genuine multiracial government without further bloodshed."
However, not all blacks were particularly excited by the election.
"It was not nearly as exciting as the night the black American boxer Big John Tate beat the South African champion Gerrie Coetzee for the world heavyweight title," said a black journalist from Cape Town.
"That night people danced in the street well after midnight."