Botha had a peaceful character: FW de Klerk

Pik Botha
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Former President FW de Klerk says the late Pik Botha was a consistent advocate of reform and one of the strongest proponents of the constitutional transformation process in 1990.

De Klerk was reacting to the passing of Botha in the early hours of Friday morning.

Botha died at the age of 86.  He was recently hospitalised for heart problems.

Botha served as Foreign Affairs Minister from 1977 until the end of apartheid in 1994, and then for two years in the first democratic cabinet.

In a statement, De Klerk notes that Botha had a colourful personality and made a big contribution to the peaceful resolution of the country’s historical challenges.


Tributes pour in for Botha  

Tributes have been pouring in for the 86-year-old former politician, Pik Botha. Botha was a controversial figure during his long political career, initially defending and selling Apartheid to the international community, but declaring his support for President Thabo Mbeki and the ANC in 2000.

“Botha’s support for SA transition to democracy”

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his condolences on the passing of long-time Minister of Foreign Affairs Pik Botha.

In a statement, the President acknowledges Botha’s service to the country’s international relations for 17 years up to 1994 – a joint world record in the diplomatic community.

Ramaphosa says Botha will be remembered for his support for South Africa’s transition to democracy and for his service in the first democratic administration as Minister of Minerals and Energy.

Presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko says, “Pik Botha played his role is supporting the transition into democracy he served in President Mandela’s cabinet again demonstrating his support to the government.

“The President has wished his family strength during this difficult time of grief and called on the nation to come together as South Africans morn two people who have contributed to the democratic of South Africa.”

Nickname “Pik”

His career in government saw him serve 17 years as Foreign Affairs Minister under the apartheid government and then as Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs under former President Nelson Mandela, the country’s first democratically elected President.

Roelof Frederik Botha was born on the 27th of April in 1932.

He received his nickname “Pik” as a young boy. According to his son, Roelof Botha, was dressed up as a small boy by his mother in a too small black suit and white shirt for a special occasion. One of the guests remarked that he looked like a Penguin, in Afrikaans ‘n Pikkewyn, and the name ‘Pik’ stuck.

Pik’s son, Roelof says the family expected Botha’s death.

“We did see it coming because his body was starting to turn against him after a pretty long innings, if you use cricket terminology. I think he had a lot of bounces that he had to face in his life. So we did see it coming to some extent, he passed away in his sleep and I think it was a massive organ failure. His body has run it’s course. We are taking it quite well because we saw it coming and we are very proud for the role he played.”

David Phoshoko, was Botha’s butler for 51 years and travelled with him between Pretoria and Cape Town. He is now 72 years old.

“He was a good man to me. He did everything for me and he helped raise my children. We travelled between Pretoria and the Cape for 19 years. Oliver Tambo’s son always came for tea and then he would say I am the man who keeps Pik Botha’s ties. It was a joke, it was nice.”

He was there when Botha was taken to hospital about a month ago.

Botha was one of the longest serving Foreign Affairs Ministers during the Apartheid years. He served for 17 years in that position until 1994. During that time, he is said to have defended Apartheid on the international stage, while subtlely laying the groundwork for a democratic South Africa. Like trying to give context regarding critique about South Africa in February 1978 to CBS’s Face the Nation.

“There are a lot of matters in my country that need revision and adaptation and we are working on it and we’ll do it, just as there are a lot of matters in the United States that need a lot of revision in my opinion, We are independent states, and we ought to conduct our affairs bilaterally and multi-laterally in a way that we do not offend each other but rather encourage each other and mutually strengthen each other to bring about what we might consider injustices.”

Former Deputy Foreign Minister, Aziz Pahad, says Botha managed to weather the storms of Apartheid.

“When you reflect on it, he worked under very difficult conditions. I think he was excellent as a foreign minister. He had to be the one who was at the UN when SA was suspended. In a way there was a majority vote for the credentials not to be accepted and so he has been through a very challenging time in the National Party and relative to anyone else, he did a good job.”

Political analyst Moletsie Mbeki, says Botha was an enlightened element in the National Party

“Obviously he played and important role. His announcement in the 80’s that South Africa, that he would serve under a black president, was very important, in a way a break in Afrikaner culture, in the mindset. In the sense that Pik Botha had a big following and for him to say that, I think it made, many Afrikaner supporters of the National Party realise they have to start working with the black opposition to arrive at a solution for South Africa.”

Veteran journalist, Max du Preez, has described Botha as a fascinating figure who carried a strong voice across the country.

“He was the foreign minister for a long time. In local politics he was a big, larger than life, jovial kind of guy, slightly unorthodox . He was a fascinating figure – highly intelligence man and was good company. But if we get very lyrical about him, he was also a minister of the national party government and he said notoriously in the 80s that SA was ready for a black president. He was the nice face of the NP government because he would put a reasonable face to apartheid and promise that it was about the end.”

The United Democratic Movement Leader, Bantu Holomisa, says Botha will be remembered as one who played a leading role in encouraging the National Party to end apartheid.

“We will remember Pik Botha as a person who was always pressurising his organisation, the NP, to change for the betterment of all in SA. At one stage he said that this country would be run by a black person and indeed his dream came true in 1994. He was a very straight forward fellow who was very passionate about SA and its people. He was a patriot, but unfortunately he was swimming against the big tide within his own party.”

In his own words Both expressed his gratitude on 2 February 1990 after former President FW de Klerk announced that Mandela would be released and the ANC unbanned.

“Mister Mandela is free, the ANC and other organisation are unbanned and Apartheid is on its way out. Too much has happened and they can’t fight against it, even if they want to. The steps that have already been taken is enough to strengthen the credibility of our president. And they admit openly and categorically that the road he has chosed, can’t be changed.”

Botha remained concerned for the country until the end. He leaves behind his second wife, Ina, four children and eight grandchildren. No funeral arrangements have been made.