‘Cut from a dif­fer­ent cloth’

Pik Botha saw democ­racy as in­evitable

Saturday Star - - METRO - SAKHILE NDLAZI sakhile.ndlazi@inl.co.za

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.”

JAC­QUES NAUDE African News Agency (ANA)

Piet Botha with po­lit­i­cal car­toons of his father Pik at the fam­ily home in Aka­sia north of Pre­to­ria.|

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