Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) will field candidates, including some whites, in the upcoming Rhodesian elections in every constituency -- even in strongholds of support for its former Patriotic Front partner, the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) led by Josha Nkomo.

The ZANU campaign strategy, hammered out over the past few days at a central committee meeting here, reflects the longstanding differences separating Mugabe's organization from Nkomo's.

By running a slate of candidates in each constituency, ZANU -- composed mainly of Rhodesia's majority Shona speaking peoples, has decided to test its strength even in non-Shona areas.

"We're going to run even where we feel he has little chance of winning, such as [ZAPU strongholds including] North and South Matabele," stated a ZANU election official.

"What's at dispute now is which organization . . . is stronger," he continued. "Once that's decided and we've won, we are likely to bring ZAPU into the government. We're saying [we have] no intention of ruling alone, ZANU and ZAPU are compatriots.

"We might even bring [Bishop Abel] Muzorewa into our government," he added, referring to the black prime minister of a government formed earlier this year under a now discarded constitution.

Most ZANU candidates will be political rather than military figures and many will be selected by ZANU provincial committees inside the country, said the same official. Mugabe will run in Mashonaland West, his home area.

ZANU has decided to put up some white candidates to run against the Rhodesian Front's slate, the official said. ZANU has no "card-carrying" non-African members as yet, but this may change shortly, he said: "We have no policy on race, although we have somewhite, Indian and Chinese supporters in Rhodesia. We may have to come up with a clear policy for the elections."

The official said that "it is likely" that ZANU, if victorious, will appoint Nkomo to the largely ceremonial post of president, while naming Mugabe to the really powerful post of prime minister.

"Nkomo has been saying why not make him prime minister for four or six months because he's older and has been in the struggle longer. But We're asking how could we be sure of getting him out after that time," said the ZANU official.

Many ZANU cadres, convinced that their forces did most of the fighting during the war and now have more popular support than ZAPU, are reluctant to talk of a postelection coalition.

But ZANU's top military and political leaders are convinced that, to ensure stability, they must form a coaliton government. They are careful to point out that, if victorious, they will not leave the other political parties out in the cold.

"We have had to do a lot of convincing, because many of our people are against coalition," explained the ZANU spokesman. "But there is a need for reconciliation."

According to this official, ZANU's secretary of defense and most popular military figure, Josiah Tongogara -- who was killed in a car crash in Mozambique a week ago -- "was very clear on this point. He said we can only neutralize the other forces by bringing them in. It will have to be a government of national unity."

But unity will apparently become a prime ZANU concern only after the upcoming election: a party spokesman announced today that Mugabe will return to Salisbury from Maputo on Saturday to attend to "the urgent problems" facing the country.

The unity theme was also taken up today in the Zambian capital of Lusaka by Nkomo. The ZAPU leader again called on ZANU to join forces for the coming elections, saying "We are going to fight as the Patriotic Front. Our people want unity and it must be demonstrated for the stability of the nation after elections. The ZAPU suggestion has been left open to ZANU."

Nkomo, who has spent the major portion of the struggle for an independent Zimbabwe in Lusaka, will be going back to Salisbury on Sunday. He had been urging that the two leaders return simultaneously, but this was said by ZANU officials to be an attempt to cash in on Mugabe's greater degree of popularity.

A recently scheduled meeting between Mugabe and Nkomo has never materialized. Anxious for a joint ticket, ZAPU sent a high-powered delegation led by Josiah Chinamano here by chartered aircraft to meet the ZANU central committee.

ZANU officials -- who, since the end of the London conference on Rhodesia, have been saying publicly that they plan to run separately -- simply reiterated their position and quickly send the ZAPU leaders back to Lusaka empty-handed.