Global face of apartheid state dies at 86

Pik Botha, who became the global face of South Africa’s reviled apartheid government as its final minister of foreign affairs, has died aged 86 after a lengthy illness, his son told local media.

Botha, foreign minister from 1977 until the end of white rule in 1994, was seen as a reformer in the hard-line National Party administrations he served under.

In 1986 he predicted that South Africa might one day have a black president, a statement that earned him a stern rebuke from President PW Botha, who was no relation.

“As long as we can agree in a suitable way on the protection of minority rights without a racial sting … then it would possibly become unavoidable that in future you might have a black president of this country,” he said, eight years before Nelson Mandela became president.

Botha had the unenviable job of defending apartheid on the world stage as South Africa grew increasingly isolated, facing economic sanctions abroad while imposing a state of emergency at home and attempting to destablise its African neighbours.

Regarded as a skilled behind-the-scenes negotiator who loosened adversaries up over rounds of drinks, Botha’s accomplishments included securing a peace protocol that ended South Africa’s military involvement in Angola, and helping to pave the way for the independence of Namibia in 1990.

Namibia also had an apartheid-style government and had been under South African administration for decades.

After Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, Botha served as minister of minerals and energy for two years in a government of national unity.

© AP 2018

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