THE FULL SCHOLARSHIPS THAT allow Zenani Mandela and her husband to study at Boston University were arranged by North Carolina businessman Robert Brown, a former Nixon appointee and lifelong Republican who was President Reagan's first choice to be the U.S. ambassador to South Africa. Brown withdrew his nomination after reporters and government investigators began scrutinizing his business relationships with the former government of Nigeria. A spokesman said Brown decided he could be more effective in fighting apartheid as a private citizen.

Brown, who advises several American firms doing business in South Africa, became involved with the Mandela family while escorting Coretta Scott King through South Africa in 1986. Brown pays living expenses for Zenani and her family in Boston out of his own pocket.

In their historic two-hour meeting last May, Brown says, Nelson Mandela told him he wants to sit down and negotiate a peaceful settlement between black and white South Africans. He says Mandela feels whites in South Africa are South Africans too.

Brown says Mandela told him many people have wrongly described him as a communist. Mandela said his people are simply interested in any method, any allies, that help blacks gain freedom in South Africa. Mandela, Brown says, would be willing to ask that all outside presssure against his country be suspended if meaningful negotiations were taking place.

"There is no malice or hate in his heart," says Brown. "He prays every day, and he is a big fan of Billy Graham. I was struck by the quickness of his mind after being in prison for 25 years."