In American terms this city in the heart of black Africa - a community of 40,000 in the middle of the bush that exists only because of a vast mineral deposit - would be considered a frontier outpost.

It is six weeks away from any port by rough rail and river links, and has no communication or air service with Kinshasa, Zaire's capital, about 1,500 miles away.

In African terms, it is an oasis.

Located deep in Zaire's southern Shaba (formerly Katanga) Province - the region now under attack by Katangan rebels - Kolwezi is efficient and prosperous with a percularily pleasant climate, because of its high altitude.

Kolwezi could almost be a turn of the century European city. It has quaint houses with clipped hedges along recently paved roads, a daily newspaper, and small single-story shops. The only wildlife here is in a downtown zoo.

Since the former Belgian Congo gained independence in 1960, the city has been an anomally for this part of the world, one of the few places still run as a colonial holding. The 4,000 whites still run the show, because they administer the mine that virtually supports the rest of this huge central African country.

The seven-wee-old conflict in Shaba has changed the city only slightly.

The dusk-to-dawn curfew has cut down on traffic. Now residents, both black and white, have started holding regular all-night parties with guests sleeping on couches or mats when beds run out. Many now leave work early to do errands or visit pubs - the favorite local pastime - before 7 p.m.

The shops have fewer goods because of the needs of Zaire army troops recently rebased here. Kolwezi is still better off than Kinshasa, having Rhodesian canned goods and meats, South Africa wines, and no serious shortages of dairy products or other basics.

The residents seem to find the new Moroccan army presence tolerable. Africans walking past the school where most of the 1,500 soldiers were first stationed often stopped to watch the Moroccans, praying, on bended knees, in the direction of Mecca.After the brief ceremony, the Moroccans and Africans would nod at each other, smile, then walk off to their own business.

Whites staying at the Impala Motel gathered near the room of Col. Maj. Ahmed Dlimi - temporary headquarters of the Moroccan delegation - whenever the loud bleeps of morse code, communications with 'the front," echoed through the motel grounds.

One visiting Belgian said he felt it was his closest link with the action, one of many indications that the conflict just down the road seems remote.

The Moroccans, a few of whom served in the United Nations forces in Shaba Province during the first Katangan rebellionin the early 1960s, have tried to help maintain stability in the city. Moroccan doctors have offered services to the local hospital. Moroccan commanders have tried to insure that all the goods necessary for their operation were brought from Rabat to avoid further draining local stores.

No one here appears to be troubled about the rebellion. Fewer than 100 of the white employees at the Gecamine mine have left the area, according to company officials.

Whites say they will be needed to exploit the mine's copper, cobalt manganese, gold, phosphate and germanium, no matter who controls the area.

Many blacks say they would not mind being ruled by the familiar Kantangans, who are Lunda tribesmen from the same region.

Both figure Kolwezi is too valuable to both sides fighting for control of Shaba Province to be the center of a battle. They believe that any fight for control will occur some distance outside city limits.

The theory is backed up by the results of a recent request by the local European community - that the main Zaire army base of operation be moved out of Kolwezi to avoid intense conflict. Surprisingly, the army agreed and has rebased west at Kanzenze and east at Tenke. Here, only the regional base and the airstrip are obvious military targets.

So, except for a curfew and a few shortages, life in this tropical haven