Veteran journalist, Max du Preez, has described the late Pik Botha as a fascinating figure that carried a strong voice across the country.
The 86-year-old former politician was recently hospitalised for heart problems in Pretoria and died in the early hours of Friday morning.
He was one of the longest serving Foreign Affairs Ministers in the last years of the apartheid government and served as Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs under former President Nelson Mandela – South Africa’s first democratically elected President.
Botha retired from politics in 1996 when the National Party withdrew from government of national unity. In 2000, he announced that he would join the ANC.
Du Preez explains: “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 intelligent 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.”
United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa remembers Botha fondly saying he was passionate about South Africa and its people.
“He was always pressurising his organisation, National Party, to change for the betterment of all in South Africa. At one stage he was saying that this country one day will be run by a black president and indeed his dream came true in 1994.”
Former Deputy Foreign Minister, Aziz Pahad, says although Botha worked under difficult conditions within the apartheid government, he did a good job while serving as foreign affairs minister.
“When you reflect 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 United Nations when South Africa was suspended.”
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