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South Africa has dropped off the face of the map, in terms of American news coverage, since Nelson Mandela became president.

There are occasional reports on Mandela's state visits abroad, or his estranged wife, Winnie, who confessed that she did indeed fail to help a 14-year-old boy murdered by her bodyguards, but very little has been said about ongoing violence.An update:

Violent crime remains the most serious problem in South Africa, unabated by the advent of multiracial democracy. More than 50 people are slain every day in a country of 40 million people, one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

Reuters reports the number of slayings soared to 4,849 during the first three months of this year, 650 more than in the same period in 1993. The rate of killings slowed somewhat during the April election but has gone up again since then.

One troubling aspect is the killing of police officers - 148 in the first six months of the year, many execution-style with bullets in the head. Police Commissioner Johan van der Merwe has appealed for reintroduction of the death penalty, suspended more than two years ago, saying his men are "under siege."

Robberies rocketed to more than 45,000 and rapes to more than 16,000 in the first half of the year. There also has been an alarming increase in carjackings, averaging more than 1,000 a month nationwide. The Johannesburg area is particularly hard hit, with drivers losing their vehicles to gun-toting robbers at the rate of 27 a day.

Shiny new Fords issued to government officials are prime targets. Jabu Moleketi, finance minister for the province around Johannesburg, barely escaped with his life last month. "Let's kill the dog," said one of three armed youths before they threw him out of his car.

Police estimate that if carjacking of government vehicles continues at the present rate, all 86 members of the provincial legislature will be victimized twice before the next election in 1999.

Mandela's African National Congress has not helped by failing to surrender all the arms cached by its guerrilla wing, Spear of the Nation, during the apartheid era. Although the 16,000 guerrillas are being integrated with the South African army to form a new unified defense force, only a fraction of their arms have been turned in so far.

Political violence continues unabated in KwaZulu-Natal, where an average of 80 a month are dying in ongoing warfare between the ANC and the Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party. The ANC also appears to be engaged in its own power struggles.

On top of all that, the public and private sectors have been hit by a wave of labor unrest. Miners, supermarket work-ers, court translators, civil servants and textile workers have struck for higher pay.

Mandela is learning how hard it can be to provide both a good climate for foreign investment and satisfy the black workers who voted him to power.