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 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.”