In the words of Pik Botha...
Former NP minister played ‘massive’ role in peaceful political transition
‘Colourful’ apartheidera foreign minister served National Party and ANC
Pik Botha, who served as foreign affairs minister under three apartheid presidents before becoming minister of mineral and energy affairs in Nelson Mandela’s government of national unity was a colourful personality who made friends – and enemies – across the spectrum throughout his long political career.
Botha died at the age of 86 in Pretoria on Thursday evening.
As foreign affairs minister in the cabinets of apartheid presidents BJ Vorster and PW Botha, Botha fought a losing battle to persuade the world that the policy was not a fundamental violation of human rights.
He established a relationship with US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and managed to influence then US president Ronald Reagan and British prime minister Margaret Thatcher to oppose sanctions against SA.
He worked to build a coalition of African states that would work with the apartheid regime, but this was ultimately unsuccessful as the continent turned on the apartheid Botha, who came from the party’s “verligte” (enlightened) wing, attempted to get PW Botha to accept greater political rights for black South Africans and outraged the apartheid establishment when he stated publicly that the country would one day have a black president.
His greatest diplomatic achievement was the successful negotiation of independence for Namibia, a series of talks that involved Cuba and the US.
Botha retired from politics in 1996 when the National Party withdrew from the government of national unity, and later joined the ANC.
Former president FW de Klerk said Botha’s contribution to the peaceful settlement in SA was immense.
“He was a unique and colourful personality who made an enormous contribution to the peaceful and constitutional resolution of the great historic challenges with which we had to wrestle before 1994‚” De Klerk said in a statement released by his foundation.
De Klerk said Botha’s “colourful style and forthright rhetoric” won him widespread popularity among the white electorate and had also encouraged him‚ in 1978 and 1989‚ to stand as a candidate for the leadership of the National Party.
He said Botha’s most important contribution was the manner in which he and his colleagues in the department of foreign affairs “held the line” against growing international pressure – until the collapse of international communism in 1989 opened the way to the negotiations that led to the establishment of a non-racial constitutional democracy.
De Klerk said Botha was a “prominent and consistent” advocate of reform when discussions within the NP leadership in the 1980s took place over whether to release Mandela from prison.
Botha was one of the strongest proponents of the constitutional transformation process that was initiated in 1990. UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said Botha had been a bold negotiator and an intelligent opponent.
Holomisa said Botha was one of few NP leaders who opposed apartheid.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said Botha would be remembered for his support for the country’s transition to democracy.
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said Botha was one of few NP leaders who realised at an early stage that apartheid was wrong and a crime against humanity. Mabe said: “We acknowledge him for his positive contribution towards building a new and better South Africa. May his soul rest in peace.”
Mabe said although nothing had been confirmed as yet‚ Botha’s funeral would likely take place during the week of October 22 as “there will most probably be quite a number of people flying in from all parts of the world”.
Botha leaves his second wife‚ Ina‚ four children and eight grandchildren. –DDC
South Africa’s apartheid-era foreign affairs minister Pik Botha died at the age of 86 at his home in Pretoria on Thursday night.
The former politician shared his views on climate change‚ the power of women‚ and Nelson Mandela’s legacy in an article published in August 2011.
Here‚ from our archives‚ is the story with 15 quotes that summed up his thinking.
Roelof Frederik Botha is known internationally as the world’s longest-serving minister of foreign affairs. Botha is a political survivor who served under political leaders as ideologically different as B J Vorster and Nelson Mandela. But there’s another side to this larger-than-life character – philosopher‚ amateur geologist‚ poet‚ writer‚ proud father and grandfather . . .
● Life goes by in a flash‚ it’s hard to grasp the concept of time. After all‚ what’s an entity with no beginning or end – the mind boggles.
● The church didn’t like my theories on the origins of man – after all‚ for more than 1,000 years they repressed all knowledge of it. I find it amazing that even today people can doubt evolution or Darwin. And I still can’t understand how churches preclude women from the same positions as men. I think they’re afraid of women.
● Speaking your mind isn’t a bad thing. There were many times when I made myself unpopular with my words. In 1970‚ in my maiden speech in parliament‚ I urged the then National Party to subscribe to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I wasn’t allowed to speak in Parliament for almost two years after that.
● In 1986‚ after I said during an interview that we could have a black president in the future‚ I was severely reprimanded and almost fired. But within the party the remorse in hearts and minds was growing and soon became intolerable‚ coupled with our acknowledgement that if we perpetuate apartheid‚ inevitably it would result in the destruction of the country.
● Nelson Mandela’s legacy must never be forgotten. I first met Nelson Mandela at the historic meeting between the former government and the ANC at Groote Schuur on May 2 1990. I couldn’t believe his remarkably thorough knowledge of Afrikaner history‚ the pain and suffering of the women and children who died in concentration camps and the poverty that followed. He asked me a question I was never able to answer. Why‚ when the Afrikaner started recovering from his devastation‚ didn’t he reach out to his fellow black South Africans‚ who were equally impoverished‚ degraded and subjugated? He said this without rancour or enmity.
● There’s a bigger threat to the world than any war today – climate change. This is a more lethal threat than even the Cold War‚ where the world was faced with nuclear bombs.
● People should appreciate women for their beauty and their power. Few women know how much power they wield. The way they speak‚ walk‚ and behave – it’s very appealing. It’s the combination of hair‚ eyes and lips. That’s a make-or-break picture‚ dangerous‚ enchanting.
● I knew some very powerful women in politics – the cheeky young Helen Suzman and‚ of course‚ the one and only Evita Bezuidenhout. I’ve been doubly blessed by having had two amazing women in my life‚ my late wife, Helena, and my wife today, Ina – I don’t deserve them.
● Retirement gives you time to enjoy your family. I regret the time I spent away from my family – you can never get that back. But now it’s enriching to spend time with them. I’m trying to make up for what I’ve lost.
● My children are all so different. From my eldest son‚ Roelof‚ who’s a doctor of economics‚ to Pieter‚ a rock musician and my artistic daughters‚ photographer Lien and artist Anna. I’m very proud of them all.
● Your children and grandchildren are your greatest asset in life.
● This country must belong to all people. In 1998 I came around from a prostate cancer operation to find President Mandela standing next to my bed in ICU. He told me not to worry‚ to relax – get well and carry on. He’s driven by the realisation that we need one another to make this country a success.
● When we sat down to negotiations before 1994 we agreed that steps would have to be taken to assist the previously disadvantaged in education‚ health services‚ agriculture and other fields‚ but to date offers of assistance have been ignored. There are people with a wealth of experience‚ including myself‚ ready and willing to step in and help if requests were made.
● I’d be happy to sit with anyone‚ including Julius Malema‚ and help find solutions.
● I love rugby and played in the first team at high school in Potchefstroom. But I don’t understand the emotions that people waste on the game. Winning doesn’t make you richer‚ poorer or more healthy. It reminds me of cavemen fighting over their spoils – it’s a primal urge. I tell myself before a big game I’m not going to be upset if we (Blue Bulls) lose – it’s a game and I’m lucky to be able to watch it. But I’d feel better if they won.
1997: Pik Botha shakes hands with Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
1992: Then SA foreign minister Pik Botha shakes hands with then Angolan president Jose Eduardo dos Santos.