CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA, OCT. 12 -- Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu has suggested that the United States and other countries that have failed to apply adequate antiapartheid pressure on South Africa be held accountable through punitive trade measures, assuming power is eventually transferred to the black majority.

Tutu, a Nobel peace laureate who has been in the forefront of advocating sanctions against South Africa, said that strategic minerals could be withheld from countries with a poor "preliberation" stance toward Pretoria.

"In the end, we are going to be free. We are going to have to take account of who assisted us and who impeded us," Tutu told a group of visiting journalists and news executives in his Bishops Court residence Saturday night.

Tutu was sharply critical of President Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for not applying harsh enough economic sanctions against South Africa. He said ineffective measures had encouraged the government of President Pieter W. Botha to drag its feet on power-sharing.

"You have got to make a moral decision. I'm not talking economics, I'm talking morality. . . . The preliberation record will be an important factor. We are going to be a country that got to this point," said Tutu.

Tutu said some countries, including Sweden, Norway and Denmark, had applied effective economic pressure on South Africa, but he said large countries capable of forcing change had taken inadequate measures.

Those countries, he said, are dependent on South Africa for strategic minerals such as gold and uranium and have said publicly that they could not afford to embargo the importation of such minerals.

"If they are strategic now, they aren't suddenly going to become unstrategic when we are free," Tutu said.

Tutu said the most effective form of sanctions would be the exclusion of South Africa from world money markets. But he said he doubted whether banks, because of their self-interest, would take such action.

"If South Africa was excluded from money markets, if just the banks refused to have any dealings, such as renegotiating loans, it would have been quite enough," the archbishop said.

But, he said, "those banks clearly are saying that profits are more important than black lives."

Last year, when Tutu began publicly calling for punitive sanctions before the U.S. Congress overrode Reagan's veto of the Comprehensive Antiapartheid Act, some members of Botha's Cabinet condemned the archbishop, saying that his remarks bordered on high treason.

"If it were blacks who were oppressing whites, you would have the Marines here," he added.

Tutu said punitive sanctions so far had resulted in nothing more than glacial reform by the minority white government and that Pretoria had recognized the signal tacitly condoning inaction.

"The height of our ambition is not sharing toilets with white people," he said, adding that a transfer of power remained the black majority's basic demand.

Tutu said that if the international community fails to press for an end to apartheid and conditions here do not change, the day may come when he has to endorse the use of violence against the government.

Noting that the Anglican Church has accepted the "just war" concept and has applied it in the case of Nazi Germany on the principle that war sometimes is the lesser of two evils, Tutu said, "Using this criteria, you could say it is better to use violence to overthrow the {apartheid} system.

"The point would be, if the international community failed us in the application of the kind of pressure that would end apartheid, and if the white community remained intransigent, then I would have to say, 'there is no alternative.' "

He said he was not being so presumptuous as to say that he will "give the signal for violence," but only that he would acknowledge the moment when its time had come.