Julas Chakanyuka is 12 years old, a disturbed 12. He eats only one meal a day, owns only the clothes on his back, but no shoes, and has never been to school. He lives with his parents and five brothers and sisters in a hut of plastic sheeting and rags and wobbly sticks on the outskirts of Salisbury in a shanty "town" of more than 300 families in an area smaller than a square block. The hut is not even big enough for all of them to sit in. There are only two cups of all to share, for both food and drink.

Julas is a war victim, one of about a million Rhodesians who have become refugees or cripples or exiles because of the bitter seven-year war in the troubled southern Africa territory, Julas doesn't remember when nighttime didn't signal fear of a sudden visit from guerrillas or security forces. Each year it became harder for his father, a peasant farmer in a rural tribal reserve, to eke out a living: crops were burned to intimidate, food stolen for guerrillas. His older brother disappeared five years ago, maybe to join the guerrilas, maybe to hide under a new identity. No one knows for sure, nor has ever dared ask.

Theoretically, the agreement signed last week at the Rhodesian peace talks in London should bring an end to the Chakanyukas' problems. But father Robert Chkanyuka shakes his head at the suggestion. "How?" His face wrinkles in disbelief, the first emotion emerging from his refugee apathy. "Land's destroyed, home's burned, have to begin life all over, the children and me."

The Chakanyukas represent why the peace agreement does not mean a solution to the problems of Rhodesia. Government officials claim it will take up to 10 years to rehabilitate war victims and reconstruct the war-ravaged countryside and sanctioned economy. The Red Cross estimates that one out of every seven blacks will require significant aid in rebuilding their lives. This year the Red Cross program was largely subsidized by a grant from the U.S. government. But the money only keeps people alive on an emergency basis. It will require massive doses of international aid and development funds to get them on their feet again.

In other words, a questionable future for many in a society that for 14 years has been isolated; for 11 years has scraped by economically, despite sanctions; and for seven years has fought an increasingly nasty war, costing more than 20,000 lives and $1.6 million daily.

Healing, a painful recovery, is the first priority for both blacks and whites as 89 years of white colonial rule are legally ended and all races settle down to sort out their problems.

For the past 14 years, since Prime Minister Ian Smith's break from Britain over the issue of majority rule, the most common question asked by any visitor has been: "What's going to happen to Rhodesia?" There is a stock answer: "It will become Zimbabwe, ruled by a recognized black government." But the real question is: "Whither Zimbabwe?" The implications for the new state are immense, diverse and complex.

For whites -- now just 220,000 strong but vitally needed for at least another decade -- there is an extreme psychological test ahead. Hardened by the cause of their resistance, they must accept overnight the fact that their opponents will be coming home and actually encouraged to assimilate into "their" culture.

It won't be easy for people like the Tilleys, farmers on the outskirts of Salisbury. At dusk on Jan. 11, 1978, the Tilleys drove up their dirt driveway, tired from a day of shopping. Discussing dinner as they got out of the car, they were unexpectedly greeted by a fusillade from Russian-made AK47 rifles. A gang of insurgents had been waiting for them for hours. Fifteen-year-old Colin's brains were blown all over the Peugeot station wagon and carpot; his parents escaped into the house. It marked the first major incident near the capital, and was an ominous sign of the deep penetration of guerrillas.

Eight months later daughter Cheryl Tilley was in Kariba, organizing the details of her wedding with her prospective in-laws. She set out for Salisbury on Air Rhodesia flight 825, excited and happy, friends said, for the first time since the death of her brother. But she never got to Salisbury. Flight 825 was shot down by guerrillas loyal to Patriotic Front co-leader Joshua Nkomo. Thirty-eight died in the crash, another 10 were killed by guerrillas who tracked down the wreckage in the remote bush of Urungwe tribal trustland.

Now Nkomo is coming home. The Tilleys want Zimbabwe to work. They want to stay. But they admit it's going to be tough seeing Nkomo's name on the next ballot. Not all whites are that open-minded. There is still a $250,000 reward for Nkomo's head, offered by a group of white right-wingers.

The change in Clem Tholet, Smith's son-in-law and the nation's most noted singer may reflect a more optimistic side. A year ago Tholet was best known for his husky-voiced "Rhodesians Never Die," a pep song for soldiers and for whites in general. Today, he's on the pop charts for "Zimbabwe Peace Dream," a totally different sound, based on African rhythms and recorded with a black band, with a totally different theme. As he said in a radio interview, when asked if he wasn't cashing in on the times: "Definitely not. It's my way of saying we've got to make it work."

What frightens Rhodesian whites the most is the fact that they no longer will have control over their lives. From now on, blacks will run the show, a prospect the whites find none too reassuring when they look at the rest of the continent. Crossing their fingers, they hope for another Kenya or Ivory Coast, countries that have prospered, economically and politically with multiracial societies. But Rhodesia also has the one major problem that has plagued the rest of Africa: tribalism.

The vast majority of Rhodesia's blacks are still rural, tribally oriented: They pay lobola (dowry) in cattle for each wife, however many they choose to have. They are faithful to the advice of spirit mediums and mgangas (witch-doctors). They heed the word of the 256 chiefs and hundreds more headmen who rule the kraals and villages. Until last April's election, most had never heard of the electoral process, and thousands had never even held a pencil before, much less learned to read or write. One party tried to capitalize on the uninitiated tribesmen by telling them: If they wanted to vote for candidate A, then they should place a Jarge X in the box next to his name. If they did not want to vote for candidate A, then they had only to place a small X next to his name.

Thus tribalism will play an important part for years to come. Basically, there are two major ethnic groups: the dominant Shona, with 83 percent of the black population, and the militant, Zulu-related Ndebele, with 17 percent. But it is not that straightforward, for the Shona are factionalized to the point of fierce rivalry, with six major subtribes. Even before the London agreement, there were signs that the first legitimate majority rule election, probably to be held in February or March, would be fought partially on tribal grounds: the N'dau led by the Rev. Ndabanigi Sithole, the Karanga rallying around Mike Mawema the Zezuru behind James Chikerema and the Manyika for Bishop Abel Muzorewa.

Politically, the choices in the voting will be basic: the socialism of the Patriotic Front versus the moderate capitalism of Muzorewa and the other "internal" candidates. Most observers believe the moderates' policies would probably be more attractive to blacks, for a variety of reasons that include conditioning from previous regimes. But besides tribalism, a second issue may supersede pure politics: the war. Technically the sensitive cease-fire negotations in London should end the conflict. But even British diplomats concede in private that there will probably continue to be incidents, whether deliberate or due to ignorance of the cease-fire arrangements.

Blacks want the fighting to stop, pure and simple, and after seven years many believe only the Patriotic Front can really end it all. This belief could win votes for the alliance led by Nkomo and Robert Mugabe. After all, it worked once for Muzoreqa, who last April probably won more votes because of his pledge to end the war than because of personal appeal. But he could not fulfill his promise, which is why he had to attend the London peace talks.

The future will depend partially on the election. But with so many parties, few observers believe anyone will get a clear-cut majority. The result could be a coalition that could go either way. With the Patriotic Front dominating, most lands and some industries and mining firms would probably be nationalized and collective farms and industries established, as in Mozambique. In some ways, the Patriotic Front vision is to start all over again, wiping out the white man's infrastructure, and to give, in a literal sense, every man and woman an equal opportunity in the rebirth of a nation. Under a moderate alliance, there would probably be limited reallocation of land, particularly of the 800 abondoned white farms and certain crown properties, but no radical change to compensate for the previous legalized white domination.

But while the redistribution of wealth is the "sexiest" issue, the basic problems for blacks are, instead, education and employment -- also the keys to success or failure, by western standards, of Zimbabwe, for without the fundamental ingredients, there is little chance of recuperation.

Because of the war, 1,547 schools have been closed down, leaving more than 350,000 students without education. "A whole illiterate generation is being created," Secretary of Education John Smith said recently. Rhodesia had boasted of its educational achievements: Its more than 10,000 university graduates represent a higher proportion than in any other country in Africa at the time of independence. (Zambia had less than a dozen, and Zaire, with its 24 million population, has less than 100.)

Rhodesia's educational standards were one of the chief points used by the white minority regime to argue that it was giving "its" blacks a good deal and that, upon "eventual" majority rule, they would be fully prepared. But how there is another generation: children like Julas Chakanyuka, who has never been to school. Even if he starts now, at 12, he won't get through high school until he is 25, and most black families can't afford to keep possible breadwinners in school beyond the age of 17.

Unemployment is staggering: more than 50 percent of the regular black wage earners, according to the Institute of Race Relations in Salisbury. The lifting of United Nations-imposed sanctions may help, but it will take time to establish new industries, and in many cases modern technology may be brought in to replace the labor-intensive system forced on the country by sanctions. Jobs are so scarce that anyone advertising for domestic help is likely to get up to 200 applicants. Many firms have long had signs on the door or fence declaring "No Jobs."

Technically, all doors are now open to blacks, since major discriminatory legislation was removed during the six-month rule of Muzorewa. And a privileged few urban Africans have taken advantage of the changes: Property columns in the local papers show the major home sales are now blacks buying into the previously white suburbs. Public schools are integrating for the first time. Hotels, restaurants and sports facilities have scrapped racial barriers. But the average black is unaffected by the dramatic repeal of segregation; his struggle is not to get ahead, but just to survive.

"It seems such a waste, in light of the potential," lamented Rene Kosirnik of the Red Cross. A waste, indeed. Rhodesia has even greater potential to become the paradigm of Africa than Kenya or the Ivory Coast, and it could also serve as the stimulus for the southern subcontinent. Once at full production again, Commercial Farmers Union officials claim, the territory's agricultural output could supply basic foodstuffs to most of Mozambique, Zambia and Zaire, countries unable to feed themselves. Its transportation links -- the dream of explorer-entrepreneur Cecil John Rhodes -- would open up a belt across southern Africa. Minor technology and small manufactured goods -- such as pharmaceuticals, refrigerators or construction materials -- would help poor neighboring states avoid the high costs of importing abroad. And there is increasing talk of an economic unit, modeled on the European Common Market, to include Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zaire, with Zimbabwe in the crucial center.

But that is the dream. The reality is what happened to Zambia. For Zambia also could have been the breadbasket of the region, and it is as rich in minerals as Rhodesia. But since independence in 1964, Zambia has become increasingly dependent on foreign aid, World Bank loans and outside sources of food. In the past year Zambia has become so desperate that President Kenneth Kaunda broke sanctions to buy fertilizer and maize from Rhodesia.

Rhodesia represents a different, unique experiment for Africa, a challenge with unprecedented problems and tensions. "Whither Zimbabwe?" In my ways, the answer will depend even more on foreign interest and investment in the territory than it will on the outcome of the election and the spirit of the people. The current government has already indicated that it hopes the West will revive the billion-dollar development fund proposed during the 1977 Anglo-American peace effort. And cabinet officials began appealing for aid, especially from the United States, even before the settlement.

Herbert Zimuto, minister of home affairs, explained: "We think the Americans have a lot of offer us in the form of development finance. Our economy has been crippled and we are looking for large sums of money to rebuild our factories so we can create job opportunities for thousands. We need a great deal of investment and I think the Americans have got the money for this type of thing."

The real tragedy of Rhodesia is that the suffering need never have happened. Majority rule has come in spite of Ian Smith's pledge: "Never in my lifetime, never in a thousand years." And the cost -- in both human and material resources -- has been so high that now the change for real peace and stability remains just that -- a chance.