‘Cut from a different cloth’
Pik Botha saw democracy as inevitable
PIK Botha was the face of the apartheid government as Pretoria’s long-serving minister of foreign affairs, but for his son he was a man of class, “cut from a different cloth”.
Botha has died in Pretoria at the age of 86 after a lengthy illness.
One of his four children, son Piet, a well-known musician who fronts the band Jack Hammer, received wellwishes at his father’s home in Akasia yesterday.
According to Piet, his father enjoyed reading and listening to classical music and also enjoyed family, a good braai with friends and hunting.
He began his diplomatic career in the South African mission in Stockholm in 1953 and turned to politics in the 1970s.
He travelled widely while serving in the portfolio of Foreign Affairs which he held for 17 years until the end of the apartheid era in 1994 and his liberal views earned him a position in Nelson Mandela’s first post-apartheid government as minister of mineral and energy affairs.
During a tour round his home, one saw evidence of his reading habit, with thousands of books packed neatly on book shelves. The flourishing garden, Piet said, was a favourite reading spot.
A charming career diplomat, Botha was widely regarded as one of the first National Party (NP) leaders who saw the transition to democracy as inevitable.
Roelof Frederik Botha earned the nickname “Pik” (short for “pikkewyn” or penguin) because of the perceived likeness to a penguin in his stance, accentuated when he wore a suit.
Piet described his father as being cut from a different cloth, because although he worked for the NP, he stood his ground with regard to equality in the country.
“He was a good man working in a not-so-great government,” is how his son summed it up.
Botha was known for his kindness to all his staff, black and white, and his son said he had been admired by friend and foe.
Many, he said, would remember how his father, “the old man”, had been reprimanded by former president PW Botha in 1986 for saying South Africa would have a black president.
He said the country could have avoided turmoil if those in power at the time had listened to his father.
Piet said his father’s last days were sad as “a man of power and charisma had lost his grip and was frail.”
Piet Botha with political cartoons of his father Pik at the family home in Akasia north of Pretoria.|