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Mugabe's one-party plan for Zimbabwe tangled in politics

Robert Mugabe, educated by Jesuits and now a follower of Marx and Lenin, faces growing opposition to his socialist government here in this drought-affected land of 8 million people.

Yet he still seems likely to win a second term in office in Zimbabwe's first post-independence elections, now promised for March or April of next year.

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This is not necessarily bad news for the West, according to resident Western experts here.

For a man who frequently praises ''the principles of Marxism-Leninism,'' Mr. Mugabe's actions so far have moved Zimbabwe remarkably slowly down the road to socialism, these experts say.

He has nationalized neither industry nor land, and white businessmen here are reported to be reasonably pleased with the government's efficiency and desire to retain Western skills.

The government has bought shares in industry rather than taking it over: for instance, when H. J. Heinz bought out an existing company to form the only major American private venture here, the government took 49 percent while Heinz retained 51 percent.

Mugabe has also left so much land in the hands of big commercial farmers (mostly white) that he has upset the left-wing of his own party, which wants land divided into small lots for Africans.

Instead of a Soviet-style economy, Mugabe so far appears to be heading for a mixed system on lines of Yugoslavia or Sweden.

The guessing game in Harare is over what Mugabe actually means when he talks of setting up a single-party state that would somehow include all shades of political opinion.

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Mugabe has said he wants to act according to the Constitution. Under Section 21, however, no change in constitutional freedoms to form or belong to a political party or trade union can be made within 10 years of independence without support of all 100 members of the House of Assembly.

After 10 years, 70 members must approve.

Constitutionally, Mugabe must carry every member of the House if he wants to change before April 18, 1990.

Currently his Zimbabwe African National Union (Popular Front) or ZANU (PF) holds 58 seats. Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union or ZAPU has 19, and Bishop Abel Muzorewa's United African National Council has three.

The remaining 20 are reserved for whites. Eight are held by former Prime Minister Ian Smith's Conservative Alliance, and 12 by whites who recognize the inevitablity of working with a black government.

Apparently Mugabe hopes that the coming elections will will see a wholesale defeat for his chief rival, Mr. Nkomo, and that he will be able to carry all 100 Assembly members toward any new political plan.

This, however, is unlikely since grass-roots opposition is said to be growing. The government is criticized for the three-year drought, for inflation running at 22 percent a year, and for slow land redistribution. The murder Nov. 9 of pro-Mugabe Sen. Sam Moven Ndlovu in Beitbridge has also heightened tension and ZAPU opposition.

The Prime Minister at once criticized ZAPU, though Nkomo repeatedly disclaimed responsibility for or knowledge of the shooting. On Nov. 12, Mugabe ousted the two remaining Nkomo supporters in his Cabinet. On Nov. 13, his Minister of Home Affairs, Simbi Mubako told the House he had ''considerable'' intelligence linking ZAPU with dissidents supported by South Africa.

Nkomo told the press in Harare Nov. 14 Mugabe was trying to ''discredit'' ZAPU.

Western experts estimate that between 250 and 300 dissidents operate in Matabeleland, Nkomo's home base. They are former members of Nkomo's army against the British. Nkomo says he doesn't control them or know their plans. He accuses Mugabe of wanting to ''destroy'' elections. For his part, Mugabe said Nov. 12 that ZAPU was wedded to ''violence and banditry'' and to destroying democracy.

One result, analysts say, is that for now, any lingering Mugabe hope of winning ZAPU support for constitutional changes has disappeared.

While he is, however, expected to retain office in the coming elections, he may lose a seat or two. Nkomo may gain some ground, though his own Ndabele tribe is outnumbered by those groups, including Mugabe's own Zezuru tribe, who speak the Shona tongue.

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