President Samora Machel today made an impassioned appeal for continued unity between the two wings of the Patriotic Front guerrilla alliance, in Rhodesia's February elections.

The unity of the front has been weakened by the insistence of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) that his party run separately from Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) in the elections.

Machel's remarks were made at a memorial service for slain ZANU guerrilla chief Josiah Tongogara, who was killed in an automobile accident last week. They reflected his clear preference that the Patriotic Front run on a single ticket, a view shared by Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere and Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, two other major backers of the Front.

"The lesson of Tongogara was that he acquired a feeling of unity," the Mozambique president said. "The Mozambican people don't want to hear about ZANU and ZAPU. They want only one thing -- for the Patriotic Front to continue."

ZANU officials, who appeared to be somewhat surprised by Machel's vehemence, reitereated that they always intended to form a coalition government with their wartime allies after the elections.

In another development, a ZANU central committee member dismissed concern about whether the party's guerrillas would arrive at designated assembly points inside Rhodesia by the Friday midnight deadline.

"The deadline does not matter," he said. "It will only mean that our forces outside the camps will put on civilian dress and blend into the countryside.

He added that the guerrillas outside the camps, who still number in the thousands, would "keep their weapons, but they won't shoot unless fired upon. Those are our orders to them."