Because of news censorship in South Africa these days, there are no telecasts of mass funerals, no pictures of tiny caskets bearing the bodies of children slain by security forces, no reports of police raids, false arrests and torture.

Add to that the South African penchant for converting black American visitors into honorary whites, and some people end up believing that things aren't so bad anymore.

"I saw the same situation that exists in America," said William Reed, a black columnist for Washington's Capitol Spotlight newspaper, who recently returned from a one-month, "fact-finding" mission to South Africa sponsored by the Bavarian Motor Works Co.

"Johannesburg at the Carlton Hotel looks just like Friday night at Hogate's on the Southwest waterfront," Reed reported upon his return.

What Reed saw during his visit cannot be denied -- but he should have stayed longer.

It is true that some black South Africans drive BMWs and make good money selling American fried chicken in a segregated market.

But no place compares with South Africa. And if white South Africans believe that restricted tours by selected tourists, coupled with media censorship, will change the way that country is perceived, they are sadly mistaken.

Nowhere is that more apparent than here in the Washington area.

A few weeks ago, thousands of residents observed Southern Africa Week by participating in seminars and discussion groups.

There were scores of lectures, films and television programs that drew audiences from the poshest homes in Georgetown to the Parklands Housing Project in Southeast Washington.

The immorality, the brutality, the subterfuge and the callous disregard for life that is the homicidal/suicidal South African mindset is the cause of much consternation here, among young and old, black and white.

On May 10, for the third year in a row, hundreds of residents showed up at the South African Embassy for a Mother's Day protest against apartheid. This time, children were arrested.

"As a mother, I can't help but feel terrible about what is happening to the children in South Africa," said Peggy Cooper Cafritz, an organizer of the Mother's Day march. "What is happening in that country is so outrageous we can never let it be forgotten."

A week earlier, singer Jackson Browne arrived in Washington to present the African National Congress -- the main rebel group fighting to overthrow South Africa's white minority government -- with a $25,000 check from a group called Musicians United Against Apartheid.

A few days ago, the usually optimistic Leon Sullivan, author of a widely used code of conduct for U.S. companies doing business in South Africa, said, in effect, that South Africa was incorrigible.

He called for American companies to get out and for the United States government to sever all diplomatic ties.

It was what the Washington-based lobbying group TransAfrica had been saying all along, and the vindication of its position was no doubt cause for much celebration last night when founder Randall Robinson looked back on 10 years of pushing Africa to the forefront of American foreign policy.

Because of Robinson, Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.), lawyer Mary Berry and scholar Roger Wilkins, a Free South Africa movement was born that has spread across the country.

Ten years ago, Johannesburg was just a song on a record by Gil Scott-Heron.

Today, it is the subject of research projects and essays by students throughout the D.C. public school system.

It's been more than a year since Pretoria began its unprecedented crackdown on the news media, expelling foreign journalists and threatening local editors with arrest. It was a move designed to keep the South African people in the dark, as well as quash American outrage at what is happening there.

How dumb of the South African government to think that out of sight could mean out of mind when it comes to being the skunk country of the international community.