Former apartheid official who later backed Mandela dies at 86

Pik Botha, a man who served as the final foreign minister of South Africa under apartheid and served under the unity government, died Friday. He was 86.

Former President Nelson Mandela shakes hands with former South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha, at right, during a meeting with British scientist Stephen Hawking in Johannesburg, South Africa, on May 15, 2008. File photo by Denis Farrell/EPA
Former President Nelson Mandela shakes hands with former South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha, at right, during a meeting with British scientist Stephen Hawking in Johannesburg, South Africa, on May 15, 2008. File photo by Denis Farrell/EPA

Botha had defended apartheid for nearly two decades as South Africa’s foreign affairs minister under three apartheid presidents. In 2000, he transitioned to the African National Congress under President Nelson Mandela.
Botha’s son, Roelef Botha, said in an interview on the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation Friday that his father died at home after deteriorating health and organ failure. He said he’d had a “good enough life.”

Botha had also served as minister of mineral and energy affairs in Mandela’s government.

“Mandela succeeded in his bid to reach out to whites without bitterness. [Former apartheid President F.W.] De Klerk did not manage to reach out to blacks,” he’d said.

“Whites, especially the Afrikaners, must get down from their pedestals. They should rather help uplift poor South Africans of other population groups. Afrikaners cannot flourish when things are not going well for other South Africans.”

Botha’s son said recognizing the independence of Namibia, paving the way for South Africa’s first Democratic elections and writing the South African Constitution with Mandela were among his greatest achievements.

“I’m very glad that he could have seen this change because it does mark I believe a new beginning for South Africa,” Roelef Botha said.

BySommer Brokaw