Apartheid reformer Botha dies at 86
Pik Botha, who became the global face of South Africa’s reviled apartheid government as its final foreign minister, has died at the age of 86 after a long illness.
His son Piet told News24 that his father died in his sleep on Thursday night. “His wife Ina was with him until the end,” he said. “He was very sick during the last three weeks and his body just couldn’t take it anymore.’’
Mr Botha, foreign minister from 1977 until the end of white rule in 1994, was seen as a reformer in the National Party administrations he served under. In 1986 he predicted South Africa might one day have a black president, which earned him a stern rebuke from President PW Botha, who was no relation.
“As long as we can agree in a suitable way on the protection of minority rights without a racial sting … then it would possibly become unavoidable that in future you might have a black president of this country,” he said, eight years before Nelson Mandela became president.
Mr Botha had the unenviable job of defending apartheid on the world stage as South Africa grew isolated, facing economic sanctions abroad while imposing a state of emergency at home and attempting to destabilise its African neighbours. He was described by some as a “good man working for a bad government”.
Regarded as a skilled behindthe-scenes negotiator who loosened adversaries up over rounds of drinks, Mr Botha’s accomplishments included securing a peace protocol that ended South Africa’s military involvement in Angola, and helping to pave the way for the independence of Namibia in 1990.
After Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, Mr Botha served as minerals minister for two years in a government of national unity.
“As you know, originally we were enemies,” he told the BBC in 2013. “From our point of view, (Mandela) led an organisation which we regarded as a terrorist organisation and they saw themselves as freedom fighters. “Of course all that had to change. It is not always that simple and easy to change … mindsets but eventually it did change. He played the role of a saviour.”