Although Zimbabwe has voted in the United Nations General Assembly for economic santions against South Africa, Prime Minister Robert Mugabe said recently that "at this stage," his country could not comply with any such sanctions.
But at a news conference here March 19 with the visiting chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), President Siaka P. Stevens of Sierra Leone, Mr. Mugabe added that "Zimbabwe will not stand in the way of economic sanctions if the United Nations imposes them."
In recent weeks, the Zimbabwe government has appeared to be hardening its attitude towards South Africa, on which it is almost totally dependent for its transport links. Mr. Mugabe has spoken out sharply against South Africa's "naked aggression" in launching hot-pursuit raids into neighboring Angola and Mozambique.
And this week, in their joint communique at the end of two days of talks in Salisbury, President Stevens and the Zimbabwe premier appealed to the international community to give aid to those "frontline" black states who are threatened by South African aggression.
The United States and President Reagan in particular are being drawn into the war of words by black African leaders such as Mr. Mugabe with expressions of suspicion of the new administration's African policies. Asked to comment on reports that Presidet Reagan might be considering supporting the antigovernment UNITA rebels in Angola, Mr. Mugabe replied:
"It would be extremely repugnant in our view if the Reagan administration were to support the [UNITA] reactionaries."
Both Mr. Mugabe and the AOU chairman stressed that the West could not expect to remain neutral over South Africa. "Are they [the Western countries] our friends or our enemies?" Mr. Mugabe asked.
Some African leaders seem to be using the Reagan administration as a whipping boy, with President Samora Machel's Mozambique government claiming to have discovered a CIA spy ring in Mozambique and that CIA agents were plotting to assassinate President Machel himself.
For his part, Mr. Mugabe has defended the presence of Cuban personnel in Angola, arguing that the Cubans were invited into Angola by the "legal governemnt." Accordingly, he argues that there is no reason for any "disgruntlement" on the part of the US or any other power.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe government leaders have been calling for increased United States aid and investment in this country at the same time as criticisms of the Reagan administration are raised. Among these are the frequent suggestions that it is "soft" on South Africa and favors a Namibian solution outside that specified in the United Nations resolution.
The Mugabe government is hoping that the United States will beef up its aid program to Zimbabwe, currently estimated at just over $100 million. At a conference here this week, Zimbabwe is hoping to attract $1.8 billion from donor nations, especially the US, Britain, We st Germany, and Japan, for its development programs.