A look at the life and times of Pik Botha


The Citizen (Gauteng) - - FRONT PAGE - Brian Sokutu – bri­ans@cit­i­zen.co.za

Trib­utes pour in far and wide as le­gendary ex-for­eign min­is­ter dies.

The coun­try’s long­est serv­ing diplo­mat, Roelof (Pik) Botha, 86, who died yes­ter­day, has left a legacy revered by friend and foe – first as an apartheid-era for­eign min­is­ter, and later be­com­ing a mem­ber of Nel­son Man­dela’s cab­i­net.

It was un­think­able to most South Africans as far back as the ’80s that a high-rank­ing cab­i­net min­is­ter like Botha would break ranks with the reign­ing ide­ol­ogy in the Na­tional Party (NP) gov­ern­ment, and push for the re­lease from prison of Nel­son Man­dela and the un­ban­ning of lib­er­a­tion move­ments like the ANC and the PAC.

This paved the way for the be­gin­ning of the con­sti­tu­tional talks that got to be known as Con­ven­tion for a Demo­cratic South Africa (Codesa) in 1991.

Botha is re­mem­bered as the first Afrikaner leader to de­clare his will­ing­ness to serve un­der a black pres­i­dent who – af­ter the 1994 first demo­cratic elec­tions – be­came Man­dela.

It is this lib­eral po­lit­i­cal lean­ing that gave him cre­dence in lib­er­a­tion cir­cles, de­spite his de­fence

of the NP-led gov­ern­ment.

Among many who have paid trib­ute to Botha yes­ter­day, were Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, for­mer pres­i­dent FW de Klerk, busi­ness­man Saki Ma­co­zoma and United Demo­cratic Move­ment (UDM) leader Gen­eral Bantu Holomisa.

Un­der­scor­ing the view that Botha was a lib­eral within a con­ser­va­tive NP, De Klerk in pay­ing homage to Botha said: “In­tense dis­cus­sions took place within the NP lead­er­ship dur­ing the ’80s. Pik Botha was a prom­i­nent and con­sis­tent ad­vo­cate of re­form, con­sti­tu­tional ne­go­ti­a­tions and the re­lease of Nel­son Man­dela from prison.

“He sup­ported pres­i­dent PW Botha’s re­form mea­sures and sub­se­quently was one of the strong­est

pro­po­nents of the con­sti­tu­tional trans­for­ma­tion process that we ini­ti­ated on Fe­bru­ary 2, 1990.”

De Klerk, who ex­pressed sad­ness at the death of “a val­ued col­league and friend”, de­scribed Botha as “one of the lead­ing per­son­al­i­ties in South African pol­i­tics from 1970 un­til his re­tire­ment from ac­tive pol­i­tics in 1996”.

“He served with great distinc­tion as South Africa’s min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs from 1977 un­til 1994 – one of the world’s long­est-serv­ing for­eign min­is­ters.”

De Klerk said Botha had played a key role as a mem­ber of South Africa’s le­gal team in the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice’s pos­i­tive judg­ment in 1966 in the case on South West Africa (later Namibia) and, sub­se­quently, in South Africa’s pro­tracted ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Western Con­tact Group and the United Na­tions on the in­de­pen­dence of Namibia.

“In 1988, he con­cluded the tri­par­tite agree­ment with An­gola and Cuba on the with­drawal of Cuban troops from An­gola and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the UN in­de­pen­dence process in Namibia.

“The agree­ment was of piv­otal im­por­tance to the evo­lu­tion of the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in South Africa.”

Safika Hold­ings chair Ma­co­zoma de­scribed Botha as “an in­ter­est­ing na­tion­al­ist politi­cian”.

“In my view, his ex­po­sure to the in­ter­na­tional world made him see and un­der­stand that a non-racial so­ci­ety could work in South Africa. Had he sim­ply con­veyed that truth to the Na­tional Party

South Africa is quite far ad­vanced due to the com­bined ef­fort of both blacks and whites; that they need each other. I used to say we are like a ze­bra: if you put a bul­let into the black stripe or the white stripe, the an­i­mal will die.

Pik Botha speak­ing in 1997, af­ter leav­ing the gov­ern­ment and re­tir­ing.

lead­ers and elec­torate, he would have sim­ply been cast out like Bey­ers Naude,” Ma­co­zoma said.

“In the end, the Verligtes [lib­er­als in the NP] were over­pow­ered by the Se­curo­crats.”

Ma­co­zoma said Botha’s at­tempts to make apartheid ac­cept­able to the world was “prob­a­bly his Achilles heel”.

“It had to in­volve sig­nif­i­cant ly­ing to the world and also cost South Africa the in­for­ma­tion scan­dal, even though it did not hap­pen un­der his de­part­ment.

“The tri­cam­eral par­lia­men­tary sys­tem, [and] the elab­o­rate pro­pa­ganda sys­tem set up to de­fend apartheid formed part of the idea that the sys­tem could be made be­nign and sold to the world.

South Africa, said Ma­co­zoma, should re­mem­ber Botha as the prodi­gal son. He sinned against

the na­tion in sup­port­ing apartheid for so long. He re­alised his sin, re­canted and re­pented.

“Thus, in the end he did the right thing. We must thank God for his life and for the role he played in help­ing us cross the Ru­bi­con into democ­racy.”

Holomisa said Botha should be re­mem­bered for putting pres­sure on PW Botha to change.

“At a per­sonal level, he was an easy per­son who cre­ated a lot of friends like for­mer Nige­rian pres­i­dent Gen­eral Oluse­gun Obasanjo,” he said.

Ramaphosa said Botha would be re­mem­bered for his sup­port for South Africa’s tran­si­tion into democ­racy and for “his ser­vice in the first demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tion” as min­is­ter of min­eral and en­ergy af­fairs.

Pic­ture: AFP

IN JO­HAN­NES­BURG. Pik Botha shakes hands with Arch­bishop Des­mond Tutu as he ar­rives at The Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion hear­ings in the 1990s.

Pic­ture: AFP

IN WINDHOEK. As South African for­eign min­is­ter, Botha held talks with Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Mar­garet Thatcher on Namibia.

Pic­ture: Gallo Images

IN PRE­TO­RIA. Pik Botha seen dur­ing a pub­lic dis­cus­sion on af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion with Ra­belani Da­gada.

Pic­ture: Sup­plied

BIRDS OF PAS­SAGE. For­mer for­eign af­fairs min­is­ter Pik Botha, pic­tured with Pi­eter-Dirk Uys as Evita Bezuiden­hout.

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