Salisbury, Rhodesia — Some liken it to a honeymoon, an "era of good feeling," or the period of intense nationalism after a declaration of war -- but before the fighting has actually begun.
Robert Mugabe's ascension to power in Rhodesia "has gone so much better than anyone ever expected," summed up one well-placed observer here. But there are some quagmires ahead, as Mr. Mugabe travels the path from leadership of a guerrilla movement to head of a peacetime government.
Perhaps the most serious problem is the inexperience of his Cabinet. Fully 22 of his 23 Cabinet appointees have never held high government rank before. Several, including Mr. Mugabe himself, have been imprisoned for long periods for their opposition to the government of former Prime Minister Ian Smith. Others have been in exile, in some cases for nearly two decades.
"We really don't know those blokes," say one white businessman, echoing the uncertainty of many of his colleagues about the ministers surrounding Mr. Mugabe.
Add to that a general uncertainly among the predominantly white upper echelons of the civil service. One of Mr. Mugabe's aides speaks of the urgent need to upgrade Africans in government service "to correct past discrimination based on color" -- but acknowledges that this upgrading could rankle the white civil servants on whom the new government must depend.
In addition, Mr. Mugabe says he is committed to a general restructuring of the government, which will inevitably present its own set of problems. An early target, it appears, will be the "district commissioners" -- local officials with wide-ranging powers over African tribal areas, which are a throwback to the colonial policy of separate governmental institutions for blacks and whites.
"We will have just one system for all," says Mr. Mugabe.
One practical effect of such a move: stripping some of the power of the minister of home affairs, who formerly supervised the district commissioners. The move thus has strong political overtones, since the new home affairs minister is Joshua Nkomo, a rival of Mr. Mugabe in the nationalist movement.
Mr. Mugabe also sketched other far-reaching changes in the government here.
Traditional African courts -- applying tribal law to personal disputes -- would be expanded, he said, and integrated into the formal appellate courts.
Rhodesia's radio and television services "stand in need of a real overhaul," he says. They supported former Prmie Minister Ian Smith's rebel government, he says, and now need "a new set of standards, a new objectivity." Experts from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) have been called on for advice, he says.
Although he did not mention the print media, some of his aides hint that the government may acquire controlling interest in Salisbury's major daily newspaper , the Herald. The paper, the most influential in the country, is owned by the South African-based Argus newspaper chain, along with dailies in the country's second-and third-largest cities.
Mr. Mugabe has so far only briefly outlined the changes he has in mind for the country's educational system. He says that education in the future Zimbabwe should be "directed to the actual needs of our country" -- especially the mining and agricultural sectors.
"I don't want to produce a bookworm," he says, "who can't grow a flower, . . . who can't do simple repairs to his home."
The wide-ranging nature of the changes Mr. Mugabe has in mind and the inexperience of his new government are apparently the reasons the formal date for this country's independence from Great Britain has been delayed.
Initially, the caretaker British government here had planned a handover to Mr. Mugabe some three to four weeks after last month's elections. Now, that period has been stretched to give the new government more time for settling in. Thus, the new state of Zimbabwe is scheduled to come into being on April 18 at the earliest.