Pik Botha, 86, South Africa’s last apartheid for­eign min­is­ter

Pawtucket Times - - OBITUARIES / REGION -

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.

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