Reagan's right course on Zimbabwe

News that President Reagan will ask Congress to increase foreign aid to Zimbabwe should hearten all those who look for continued progress in that newly democratic nation. It is to be hoped this foreshadows a successfully evolving policy and mature approach toward southern Africa as a whole.

The sum -- $75 million a year for the next three years -- is modest measured against Zimbabwe's requirements. Prime Minister Mugabe's need is for a long-range commitment of aid enabling him to pursue his ambitious plans for economic and social reconstruction -- expected to cost $2 billion. But the Reagan proposal means a threefold increase in US aid, coming when the administration has cut aid generally by 20 percent. It is therefore a welcome move as 36 nations, from East and West, now meet in Salisbury to consider Zimbabwe's development program.

There is no question Mr. Mugabe deserves international support. Reports from his country put a glow in the heart when one considers the strife out of which Zimbabwe was born --and the forebodings of disaster if he and his black guerrillas came to power. Quietly and pragmatically, the Mugabe government has moved to promote racial harmony and confidence. Its economic-incentive programs have won the support of white farmers and businessmen as well as foreign-owned mining companies. The ouster of a radical Cabinet minister and forceful steps to end combat between ex-guerrillas also have helped enhance a sense of fairness and security.

Zimbabwe is not without problems, to be sure. But it is headed in constructive directions. If it is worth helping El Salvador in ordder to forestall the spread of communism, it surely is important to do the same for Zimbabwe, a nation far more critical in the strategic scheme of things -- and, to the point, a nation already demonstrating its commitment to democracy and social and economic justice. Mr. Reagan is on the right course.

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