South African apartheid-era foreign minister Pik Botha dies

Pik Botha with Nelson Mandela at a rally in 1994

Apartheid-era foreign affairs minister Pik Botha has died in his Pretoria home at the age of 86, his family confirmed on Friday morning.

His foundation's spokesperson Theuns Eloff: "He played a huge role in worldwide relations in South Africa's global standing, but he was also one of South Africa's most reform-minded National Party Cabinet ministers".

Botha passed away at a Pretoria hospital on Thursday night.

He is not related to the late PW Botha, the contemporary National Party politician under whom he served as South Africa's foreign minister.

After Nelson 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.

He said Botha's most important contribution was the manner in which he and his colleagues in the department of foreign affairs held the line against growing global pressure - until the collapse of worldwide communism in 1989 opened the way to the negotiations that led to the establishment of a non-racial constitutional democracy.

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

De Klerk also refers to Botha's "unique and colourful personality", adding in the statement that was what made him enter politics to begin with.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his condolences on the passing of Pik Botha.

However, some South Africans are critical of Botha and other apartheid-era leaders who negotiated their own political exit in relative peace, saying their association with a system that denied basic rights to most of the population was unforgiveable.

He says that Botha played a pivotal role in steering the country towards democracy.

Ramaphosa said Botha would be remembered for his support for the country's transition to democracy.ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said Botha was one of few NP leaders who realised at an early stage that apartheid was wrong and a crime against humanity.

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