The white-run newspapers still refer to them as "terrorist leaders" even though they may return to this country to legally contest an election within weeks.

But for Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe, co-leaders of the Patriotic Front guerrilla alliance, press terminology is just one of the problems they will face campaigning against Prime Minister Abel Muzorewa before the British-run election that is to choose this country's first internationally recognized black majority government.

Although the campaign is not officially launched, Muzorewa has swung his election machinery into action with access to the media, to the white establishment's backing and to the government bureaucracy that is worthy of any incumbent.

Throughout the day at regular intervals the radio plays a jingle: "The people want peace, that's what the people want," with Muzorewa's voice in the background. The evening television news recaps activities of Muzorewa's delegation at the London conference where cease-fire discussions are still going on.

In contrast, the Patriotic Front has no sympathetic press here. The state television has not aired one interview with either leader since the conference in London began. The Front also has no offices, no facilities or trappings or political power and officially no parties since both political wings of the Front, Nkomo's Zimbabwe African Peoples's Union "(ZAPU) and Mugabes Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) are still banned here. They are likely to remain banned until the British governor arrives.

As banned parties, they cannot legally hold rallies and so are unable overtly to begin organizing before the two-month campaign period the British have stipulated. The Front wanted a six-month campaign.

Caphas Msipa, Nkomo's spokesman in Salisbury, works out of his home. He has complained about the bias of the media to the British representatives already in Salisbury. Msipa said he also is concerned about reports that some white farmers are saying they will not allow the Patriotic Front to campaign on their private property. About 1.6 million of Zimbabwe Rhodesia's 7 million blacks live on white-owned farms.

If keeping one's options open is an advantage in a campaign, then the Front is going to be at a decided disadvantage to Muzorewa under current British proposals for a cease-fire.

The plans call for the guerrilla forces to be stationed at a number of centers inside the country, while the white-led government forces will be restricted to their barracks. In the event of a breakdown of the cease-fire, these arrangements would appear to favor the conventional forces over the guerrillas.

From statements made so far, it appears that the Muzorewa party's campaign tactics will aim to portray the Patriotic Front as war-mongering hardline Communists.

"The choice," Muzorewa said recently "is between democracy and a one-party Marxist state." His foreign minister, David Mukome, has suggested that if the Patriotic Front wins, "people with beautiful houses in black residential areas and the suburbs will have to explain how they acquired the money to buy or extend their properties. If found guilty of exploitation they will be forced to accommodate strangers free of charge as a form of punishment."

"If the PF takes over, there'll be chaos," said the minister of land and natural resources, George Nyandoro. He contended that under Muzorewa changes would also be made, but in an "orderly" manner.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the Muzorewa camp shows films of Stalinist Russia to the country peasants and says this is what the life under the Front will be like," said one young black reporter.

This angers the Front. "When I look at the intemperate utterances people are making against us, giving us names, and accusing us of things that are off the mark," said Msipa, "that's provocative and I begin to wonder if that could lead to violence instead of an election. People will start thinking with their blood instead of their hearts.'

"If Nkomo were prime minister the economy would go on more or less as it is with one difference -- he would like to see a better distribution of wealth and a removal of naked exploitation . . . though taxes and in some cases, ownership of major industries," Msipa said. Mining would probably be nationalized, he added.

"Nkomo is coming to look at the situation with an open mind. He's not dogmatic.He's not going to nationalize for the sake of nationalizing," his spokesman said.

"Whatever 'ism' we follow in Zimbabwe it will be applicable (to the country)," said Tarisai Ziyambi, a member of Mugabe's central executive committee. "We are not going to dictate against the interests of the people. We will hold congresses at which all issues will be thrashed out."

"There will be an element of nationalization, for example in mining," Ziyambi said. "Other areas will be examined as we go along. But all aspects of industry in which the lives of the majority are involved will have to be of necessity nationalize."

Asked whether the Front would contest the election as a unit or as two separate parties, both Msipa and Ziyambi said that decision had not yet been made. Most observers agree that if they campaign separately they are likely to split the anti-Muzorewa vote and give Muzorewa a majority.

Some of the factors weighing the political situation in favor of Muzorewa may alter when the British governor arrives and assumes responsibility for what is meant to be an impartial administration during the transition period. The Front's political position is also likely to improve when Nkomo and Mugabe return to take personal charge of their campaigns against Muzorewa's biracial coalition government.

"The front's platform will be more convincing," said one young black. "They will ask the people, 'What did Muzorewa do for you" He is more concerned about white confidence than black interests. A vote for us a vote for peace. We were fighting for a black government which really has the power to do things in your interest.'"

Meanwhile, although most whites will be supporting Muzorewa, the prospect that the Patriotic Front will be part of, if not in charge of, a future black government has prompted some whites into a more open frame of mind about the "terrorist leaders" than they have displayed in the past.

Daivd Spain, an official of the Commercial Farmers' Union, that represents more than 5,000 white farmers, said that "one of the first things we'll have to do as a union is go and have talks with Mugabe and Nkomo when they return and find out what exactly their views are."

"Businessmen will be happy if they are given peace and a political settlement that permits the free enterprise system to operate in essence," said Keith Nicholson, general secretary of the Associated Chambers of Commerce. k"People are cautiously optimistic and accept that there's going to be some kind of accommodation with the Patriotic Front." CAPTION: Picture 1, ROBERT MUGABE . . . would nationalize key industries; Picture 2, JOSHUA NKOMO . . . coming with an open mind; Picture 3, ABEL MUZOREWA . . . incumbent's advantages