LAST week's unity congress here mended Zimbabwe's deep historical political divide between the ZANU and ZAPU parties. These parties, which had fought the country's liberation war against Ian Smith's white government of Rhodesia (but then quarreled bitterly over the peace), completed the merger last Friday into a new ZANU party.
It was a major feat of reconciliation for two groups that had come to the brink of civil war two years earlier. Former ZAPU officials now account for just under a third of the Politburo, with ZAPU leader Joshua Nkomo as one of two party vice presidents.
But the ZAPU officials appear to have failed to have any impact on the shape and character of the new ZANU. President Robert Mugabe overruled several of their demands for change, and is conducting a crusade for orthodox Marxism that has removed even many of his former friends and supporters from power.
Welcoming a list of foreign delegations to last week's unity congress in Harare, he made it clear that his preference was ordered by ideological purity. North Korea topped the list, followed by Angola, Cuba, and Ethiopia. Nicolae Ceausescu, three days before his fall from power in Romania, received effusive thanks.
Several delegates say Mugabe rebuffed suggestions of following the example of African countries like Benin and Mozambique who have both dropped the Marxist-Leninist tag this year.
Mugabe challenged the 4,600 delegates, saying ``I am a socialist, what are you?''
It was a relevant question for Mugabe's fellow leaders, who participate fully in a thriving private sector inherited from the colonial period.
Zimbabwean political scientist Jonathan Moyo says, ``His colleagues in leadership have accumulated immense properties over the years, in land and businesses. And ... the massive shopping sprees we witness to Botswana and South Africa, to shop for capitalist gadgets ... do not indicate that his is a nation about to be turned around into Marxist-Leninist behavior.''
The commitment to socialist orthodoxy is tempered by a clause that socialism should be based on the country's ``historical, cultural, and social experience.''
Delegates from the three provinces that make up the ex-ZAPU stronghold of Matabeleland brought demands to last week's congress: for Joshua Nkomo, ex-ZAPU chief, to be the sole vice president (rather than one of two), and for the party constitution to drop all mention of Marxism-Leninism or the one-party state.
Ignoring the demands, Mugabe promised that legislation could be passed to set up a one-party state after general elections scheduled for next year are out of the way.
ZANU spokesman Nathan Shamuyarira dismissed the obstacle to these plans posed by the new opposition party, the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM): ``I doubt they can even find enough candidates willing to lose their deposits.''
ZUM, badly organized and handicapped by police bans on its rallies, performed poorly in three by-elections in October this year. But some observers say that the inflexibility of the ZANU leadership may drive many former ZAPU supporters into the ZUM camp.
There were few signs of internal democracy in the new ZANU's first congress. Speakers from the floor were strictly monitored by the leadership, and few dissenting voices were heard.
Timothy Moyo (no relation to Jonathan), one of 36 ex-ZAPU combatants working on a cooperative near the Botswana border, claims they were promised a grant by the Ministry of Cooperatives.
``But it's just a song'' Mr. Moyo complains. Once owned by a white Rhodesian, the farm needs thousands of dollars of renovation.
However, the greatest outstanding issue for these men, arguably a human barometer for the success of reconciliation, is the continued imprisonment of 150 or more dissidents.
``These people,'' says Moyo, ``were together with us in the bush. They did the same things as us. Until they are out, we don't feel free.''
For some, the greatest outstanding issue, arguably a human barometer for the success of reconciliation, is the continued imprisonment of 150 or more dissidents.