At midnight tonight, April 17, Prime Minister Robert Mugabe's government officially ends British and white settler rule in the colony that, from tomorrow , will be called Zimbabwe. But the end of white rule begins, rather than ends, a broader struggle to make the new nation's wealth work for all the seven million Zimbabweans. Until today the country's mineral and agricultural riches had primarily benefited its 230,000 whites. Rural black's subsistence incomes are only $31 per year per capita.
Zimbabwe's economy is the envy of its neighbors. It has a thriving and diversified mining sector which produces chrome, gold, nickel, copper, asbestos, and high-quality coal. Agriculturally, it is more self-sufficient than any other country in Africa. The bounty of the land produces significant surpluses, making it the world's leading exporter of white maize, a major exporter of beef and Virginia tobacco, and a producer of cotton and sugar. For local consumption Zimbabwe produces tea, coffee, grapes, citrus fruit, and vegetables.
Unlike so many other countries of Africa, Zimbabwe also processes what it grows, and has a substantial manufacturing sector. That sector flourished because of United Nations-mandated sanctions but will probably continue to supply coal needs as well as to sell textiles, small appliances, and other consumer durables to South Africa, to Zambia, to Zaire, and to other countries in the region.
Zimbabwe's physical inheritance is also impressive. It has more miles of modern rails and a more highgly developed road system than most African nations. It has an efficient telecommunications system. Most of all, its hydroelectric and thermal generating plants give Zimbabwe a capacity for power which is the envy of most African countries.
Zimbabwe's impressive physical attributes are magnified by the managerial expertise demonstrated within the colony's economy since 1965. The government redirected the productive capacity of the outlawed nation. It exercised highly advanced fiscal management, developed a small but efficient money market, and, because of sanctions, became ingenious in ways which are bound to benefit the new zimbabwe.
But the management of the country has been almost exclusively white. The government, industry, and even agriculture were and are thoroughly dominated by whites. zimbabwe's unusually large group of 11,000 university graduates remained largely, [Words Illegible] ment will be how to meet the expectations of this black group without panicking or displacing whites.
Although farms run by 500 white agribusiness managers produce about 60 percent of all exported crops by value (roughly $350 million worth), the confidence of the 5,000 other whites who farm is important to maintain until such a time (which cannot be soon) when Africans will be producing as successfully. It will probably be easier to [Words Illegible] cans to senior positions in industry than it will be to transform the leadership of the important agricultural export sector. This has been the lesson of other African countries.
Yet now that Africans have attained the commanding heights of government in Zimbabwe, the pressure upon the Prime Minister to meet the desires of ordinary Africans will be great. Since the country's distribution of income has been so unequal, and since the rhetoric of the liberation struggle has aroused such potent expectations, he will be under extraordinary pressure to mandate wholesale land reform and to turn industries over to Africans and, as well, to the state.
Mr. Mugabe, moreover, is a self-professed scientific socialist and adherent of Marxism. At least that is what he was saying during the years of the military struggle. Since winning a massive electoral victory in February his rhetoric has been infused with pragmatism. He has specifically eschewed the nationalization of multinational mining or manufacturing concerns. He has promised not to give white-owned land to blacks. He has made it abundantly clear that he understands that short-cut solutions to the problem of enhancing equity may not produce increased per capita incomes for the African majority. He appreciates the importance of maintaining the productive capacity of Zimbabwe and of building upon the well-functioning structure that is part of his country's heritage. But whether he can resist the inevitable popular demands, pent up after decades of white rule is still an open question.
Zimbabwe begins its new era with an economy capable of unusual growth. But that growth will be possible only if draconian Marxist solutions are deferred or avoided altogether. Prime Minister Mugabe is not doctrinaire. For how long, however, will he be able to resist appeasing the land-hungry masses and the urban poor? That is the question for 1980 and beyond.