Pik Botha, 86, South Africa’s last apartheid foreign minister
Pik Botha, South Africa’s longtime foreign minister, whose defense of apartheid was tempered by flashes of recognition of the system’s injustice, and who went on to serve in Nelson Mandela’s unity government, died on Friday at his home on the outskirts of Pretoria.
He was 86.
His death was confirmed by his son Piet.
Botha was a busy figure on the world diplomatic scene as foreign minister from the late 1970s through the ’80s, a time of deepening unrest in South Africa, when the government crackdown on protests to white rule was growing increasingly violent.
It was also a time of rising international pressure against the racist regime. Mr. Botha fought the imposition of Western sanctions on his country.
A bluff, plain-spoken man popular with the white electorate and a jocular off-therecord drinking companion of journalists, Mr. Botha at times showed a moderate streak rarely found among his hardline party fellows.
In 1970, during his first address to Parliament as a member, he urged the government to subscribe to the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, a move that had been strongly resisted.
In 1974, while serving as South Africa’s ambassador to the United Nations, he stated that discrimination on the basis of skin color – the foundation of apartheid rule – was indefensible.
And in 1986, with the end of apartheid approaching, he said at a press briefing, “It would possibly become unavoidable that in the future you might have a black president of this country,” as long as minority rights were guaranteed.