The upper-crust white still gather at the tennis club when work is over at 4 p.m.

The African barman serves stiff whiskeys and gin tonics - reminders of the ritual of happier days when Kipushi's white community numbered 800, not the measly 250 now threatened by mass exodus.

Trouble has come finally to the confortable colonial life of this little mining town which has somehow always lucked out since 1960 when the former Belgain Congo became independent and synonymous with turbulence and violence.

"Yes, we would do everything to have a European military presence stay here," the elegant woman in the print dress said. "Yes, we're delighted to have 40 Belgian paracommandos here just down the road. And so are some of our teenage daughters."

But neither she nor the rest of the group thought Kipushi whites would follow the lead of the bigger whites community in Likasi which has told the Belgian government it would leave en masse if the paracommandos go.

"Many of us are old expatriates," a man with 28 years' service said. "We lived through 1960, 1963 and 1964 and 1967," the various key dates in Zaire's history of violence as an independent nation.

"I lost everything in 1964," another man said recounting his horror story of looting in Kongolo, a town in northern Shaba renowned for its rich farmland.

"I came here and said then we should all leave. No one listened to me. And now I am like them. When nothing happens to you you hope it will stay that way.

Since Kolwezi many wives and children have left.

A young woman who sent her children to Belgium said, "I keep waking up in the middle of the night and think I hear weapons being fired."

"I would like to leave," a stout woman in her 30s said, "and I came here when I was four years old. But my husband refuses. He was born here and is practically a Zairian."

Perched only 200 yards from the Zambia border, didn't Kipushi seem a safe place? "Not at all, that is where the rebels came from this time when they hit Kolwezi. And the bush starts a hundred yards from town."

As the man talked the grass, tall as a man at this time of year, was clearly visible, dangerous ambush country for anyone trying to reach safety - and the nearest airport - 18 miles down the road in Lumumbashi.

Pointing toward a man in his late 30s on the courts, a young woman said, "Daniel's brother wrote from Europe when he was evacuated from Kolwezi. He said everyone seemed to find jobs except people from Kolwezi."

Gecamines, the nationalized mining corporation, seems to be counting on unemployment in Europe - especially among those over 40 - to woo many Kolwezi whites back.

"We are a strange lot anyhow - fish out of water in cold climates and the hustle and bustle of Europe," a man well in his 50s said.

The French are especially worried.

Rightly or wrongly, they believe the story that the Kolwezi rebels singled out the French for punishment - and left the Belgians alone at least in the beginning - to punish them for the logistic support they provided President Mobutu Sese Seko in last year's abortive Shaba uprising.

How about the Moroccan troops, who are reputedly tough, determined, even-handed and thoroughly professional?

"You know," a pretty woman said with just the suggestion of cndescension, "we have nothing against them. But for us Africa begins when you cross the Alps."

Two hundred yards away the working class whites were gathered at their club - hard-faced. Belgian and French miners and their plain wives, Portuguese, Greeks, those at the bottom of Kipushi's white society.

"They say Mobutu is going to get $100 million in short term money from the West," and old miner said. "The Africans are starving to death and I bet that half the loot goes straight into a Swiss bank account."

Such outspoken criticism seemed to embolden the group.

"They want us to stay, but I'm quitting. I'm lucky," he said, "I've done my time and can retire two years earlier than normal retirement at 55."

"But even for me and the others, we are tired of being treated as the company's plaything," he exploded. "I think I won't be the only one leaving - even if we all have to go on unemployment in Belgium."

Whiskey courage? "Not at all," he said, "and it's hard for me to say since my family came here in 1894. It's just that we don't trust the Moroccans. They're Africans after all."