There are signs of hope in Rhodesia. The nationalists' responsible leaders are trying to persuade their more militant fringe to observe the ceasefire. They seem to be prepared for a reasonable run-up to majority rule not exceeding five years.
Their meetings with Government officials and with the leaders of Zambia, Tanzania and the Frelimo government in Mozambique, and the calling off of the South African Information Minister's pressurising visit to Mr Ian Smith, all point to a real desire for settlement and for a new spirit of co-operation in Africa's "Southern Third."
No one can be blamed for continuing to suspect Mr Smith's intentions. But it may not be too unreasonable to suggest that Mr Vorster is the real master of Rhodesia now. Well-informed observers know that Vorster had, before the end of last year, made it plain to Smith that he has only a few months to get a settlement or South African support would end. It is also known that Rhodesia's security forces are aware how hopeless it .would be to try to maintain an indefinite war against the guerrillas.
Mr Vorster may indeed be motivated by enlightened self-interest at best, but he is a man of his word as a rule, and his vision of a kind of southern African Common Market might be the kind of economic catalyst which often achieves more than idealism, however tragic and cynical that thought is.
The Frelimo leaders, bereft of the expertise thc European refugees are taking out of Mozambique, are negotiating a continuation of the arrangement with South Africa for the latter to purchase power from the Cabora Bussa dam scheme, now nearly operational. They are also believed to be in touch with Mr Smith.
What remains, however, is the need to convert the Rhodesian Front supporters, who unhappily include many Catholics, to acceptance of the fact that they have "lived on the pig's back" for long enough and must now be prepared for a redistribution of wealth in favour of the Africans. The nationalists are perfectly prepared for a long-term partnership with the Europeans, provided the latter show a change of heart.
That change is still a very big "if,".and presents the Church with a great challenge. The Church's achievement has been to stand up for what is right and to make a small but significant contribution to the training of Africans for public life.
The work of Fr John Dove, SJ, with his Silveira House courses for trade union leaders and many other adult education projects of Fr Edward Rogers, SJ, and his school of social work, and of Bro Francis Waddelove's network of credit unions are all cases in point.
But the changing of European hearts is still the biggest nut to crack. What the Europeans ought to be doing now is to throw themselves wholeheartedly behind the Church's schemes to prepare Africans for public life. This means providing executive and professional posts for qualified Africans, many of whom are still relegated to the lowest forms of work, and setting up high-powered courses in business management for them.
The whites must show a real keenness for partnership with Africans under African majority rule, or even a successful constitutional conference will do no more than paper over the cracks.
No one visiting Rhodesia can doubt the nationalist leaders' statesmanlike potential. But they must be met half way. It is hard to see how any Catholic refusing his energetic co-operation can still claim to be a member of the Church.