The newly independent state of Zimbabwe is expected to play a pivotal role in forming a southern African economic grouping designed to reduce dependence on South Africa.
But it would be unrealistic to expect early success in the group's effort to reduce that dependence.
One reason is the transportation system. For Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambigue, Zambia, and even Zaire and Malawi, the South Africa transport system remains essential.
In theory, Zimbabwe could, by the end of 1980, Route all its export and import traffic through the Mozambique ports of Maputo and Beira. But the reality is very different.
Rail traffic between Zimbabwe and Beira reopened about a month ago, but only 1,000 tons of traffic is using the line. This is coal exported by Wankie Colliery to Mozambique for use by its steam locomotives.
All of Zimbabwe's other export and import traffic, as well as all Botswana's and a substantial part of vital Zambian copper exports and food imports, are using South African railways and ports.
In trade terms, too, the links are very close; Zambia is heavily dependent on maize (grain) imports from South Africa, and even Zimbabwe this year is bringing in maize from South Africa after two poor growing seasons.
All this means that economic ties with South Africa, while they doubtless will be loosened, will continue to exert a powerful influence not only on Prime Minister Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe but also on neighboring states, such as Botswana and Mozambique.