Pik botha, 86, south africa’s last apartheid for­eign min­is­ter

The Republican Herald - - OBITUARIES - BY DANIEL J. WAKIN THE NEW YORK TIMES

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 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 in­ter na­tional pres­sure against the racist regime. 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, Botha at times showed a mod­er­ate streak rarely found among his hard

line party fel­lows.

In 1970, dur­ing his first ad­dress to Par­lia­ment as a mem­ber, he urged the govern­ment to sub­scribe to the U. N. 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. The pres­i­dent of South Africa, P. W. Botha ( no re­la­tion), forced him to re­tract the state­ment.

Pik Botha served as for­eign min­is­ter from 1977 un­til demo­cratic elec­tions in 1994 ended apartheid. He joined the Man­dela- led coali­tion govern­ment — com­pris­ing the African Na­tional Congress, which had waged the fight against white- mi­nor­ity rule, and the for­merly rul­ing Na­tional Party — as min­is­ter of min­er­als and en­ergy. But he left two years later, when his party pulled out, and re­tired from pol­i­tics.

Botha was “one of the few” from his party “who rec­og­nized at an early stage that apartheid was a wrong and crime against hu­man­ity,” the ANC said in a state­ment af­ter his death.

Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, him­self a prom­i­nent an­ti­a­partheid leader, said Botha “would be re­mem­bered for his sup­port for South Africa’s tran­si­tion to democ­racy and for his ser­vice in the first demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tion,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from his of­fice.

Botha de­clared his sup­port for the African Na­tional Congress in 2000.

“Afrikan­ers, whites should sup­port the ANC,” he said in in­ter­views. “We can­not just con­tinue with blacks vot­ing ANC and whites vot­ing for the op­po­si­tion. I want to break with the racist at­ti­tudes of the past.”

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