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S.Africa’s apartheid-era foreign minister Pik Botha dies aged 86

JOHANNESBURG: Former South African foreign minister Roelof “Pik” Botha, whose long career in government straddled both the apartheid era and the presidency of Nelson Mandela, has died aged 86, local media reported Friday.

Botha served as foreign minister for 17 years until the end of apartheid in 1994, and then joined Mandela’s cabinet after the end of white-minority rule and the country’s first non-racial election in 1994.

“As you know, originally we were enemies,” Botha told the BBC in 2013.

“From our point of view, (Mandela) led an organisation which we regarded as a terrorist organisation and they saw themselves as freedom fighters.

“Of course all that had to change. It is not always that simple and easy to change mental attitudes, mindsets but eventually it did change. He played the role of a saviour.”

Botha was described by some as a “good man working for a bad government”, despite years defending the apartheid system around the world.

He had several clashes with the hardline government of president P.W. Botha, who was no relation.

In 1985, he drafted a speech that suggested Mandela could be released from prison — which did not happen until 1990.

He also said that the country could one day be ruled by a black president, earning a public rebuke from his boss.

Botha later served as mines and energy minister in Mandela’s government before retiring in 1996.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said that Botha “would be remembered for his support for South Africa’s transition to democracy and for his service in the first democratic administration”.

Piet Botha told News24 that his father died in his sleep during the night.

“His wife Ina was with him until the end,” he said. “He was very sick during the last three weeks and his body just couldn’t take it anymore.”

— AFP

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