SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Ambassador David Tothill of South Africa today criticized black leader Nelson Mandela for playing on the ''heartstrings of the Western democracies'' to raise money.

Hours before Mandela was to reach Canberra, the federal capital, to begin a four-day visit to Australia, Tothill addressed a Foreign Correspondents Association luncheon. He told the reporters Mandela is not the clear-cut leader of all blacks in South Africa.

''Many Australians seem to believe that the negotiations (for a new South African Constitution) are a subterfuge that will bring about a handover of power to the ANC, whereupon Mr. Mandela will become the country's first black president,'' said Tothill.

''However, the ANC itself recognizes that it is not the only spokesman for black opinion. Their level of support cannot be quantified until an election is held.

Tothill said Mandela was a ''persona of the creation of the international media.''

The South African ambassador said he could not estimate what Mandela's trip to Australia would raise for the ANC. Mandela's itinerary includes a rally outside Sydney's Opera House on Wednesday and a fund-raising dinner at a hotel.

''I have heard that his (Mandela's) tour of the United States raised $10 million, but I would not like to guess what he might achieve in Australia,'' Tothill said.

Earlier this year, the South African government freed Mandela, the ANC's deputy president, after 27 years in prison. The government also legalized opposition groups and has announced a partial lifting of the state of emergency in effect since 1986.

The ANC, outlawed for many years for its armed opposition to the white-led government, is working to end apartheid in South Africa and give the vote to its 26 million blacks.

Tothill said the steps already taken by the South African government should bring an end to sanctions against his country. He said Australia and Canada should drop their continued trade and sporting sanctions.

''Australia and Canada should face the fact that unless they take the lead, nothing will change,'' said Tothill. ''It is about time that these important members of the Commonwealth established a bottom line for themselves and fixed the goalposts firmly in the ground so that they cannot again be shifted.''

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Gareth Evans said sanctions against South Africa would not be lifted because ''not enough has changed yet.''

''The Separate Amenities Act has been repealed, but there are many other pillars of apartheid still remaining intact including, in particular, the constitutional prohibition on black people voting,'' said Evans.

''It may be that it will be time to start progressively lifting the sanctions before all those pillars have been removed, but I do not think anybody is going to rush in to lift sanctions.''