Pik Botha

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Roelof Frederik Botha
Pik Botha.jpg
Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs
In office
27 April 1994 – May 1996
President Nelson Mandela
Preceded by George Bartlett
Succeeded by Penuel Maduna
Deputy Leader of the
National Party in Transvaal
In office
Leader F. W. de Klerk
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
27 April 1977 – 10 May 1994
President F. W. de Klerk (1989-94)
P. W. Botha (1984-89)
Prime Minister P. W. Botha (1978–84)
B.J. Vorster (1966–78)
Preceded by Hilgard Muller
Succeeded by Alfred Nzo
Member of Parliament
In office
Constituency Westdene
In office
22 April 1970 – 1974
Constituency Wonderboom
South African Ambassador to the United States
In office
30 July 1975 – 11 May 1977
Prime Minister B.J. Vorster
Preceded by

Johan Samuel

Frederick Botha
Succeeded by Donald Bell Sole
Personal details
Born (1932-04-27) 27 April 1932 (age 86)
Rustenburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Political party National
Spouse(s) Helena Susanna Bosman
Ina Joubert m. 27 April 1998
Children 2 sons, 2 daughters
Alma mater University of Pretoria
Occupation Diplomat and politician
Profession Law

Roelof Frederik "Pik" Botha, DMS (born 27 April 1932) is a former politician from South Africa who served as the country's foreign minister in the last years of the apartheid era. He was considered a liberal – at least in comparison to others in the ruling National Party and among the Afrikaner community – but the bulk of his career was spent defending South Africa's apartheid system of racial segregation against foreign criticism.

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

Botha was nicknamed 'Pik' (short for pikkewyn, Afrikaans for 'penguin') because of a perceived likeness to a penguin in his stance, accentuated when he wore a suit.[1] He has two sons, the rock musician Piet Botha and the economist, Roelof Botha, and two daughters, Anna Hertzog and artist Lien Botha. His grandson is Roelof Botha, former CFO of PayPal.

Early life[edit]

At the age of four, Botha was struck by meningitis in Lourenço Marques. He was treated at a small hospital in Barberton, Transvaal, and his mother vowed that if he survived, he would become a church minister.[2]

Botha attended Paul Kruger Primary School where his father was principal. He excelled in high school, becoming chairman of the debating society, captain of the first rugby team and officer in the school cadets.[2] In his first year at the University of Pretoria, a theologian explained to him that God would not expect him to keep his mother's promise to become a church minister.[2]

Diplomat and lawyer[edit]

Botha began his career in the South African foreign service in 1953, serving in Sweden and West Germany. From 1963 to 1966, he served on the team representing South Africa at the International Court of Justice in The Hague in the matter of Ethiopia and Liberia v. South Africa, over the South African occupation of South-West Africa (now Namibia).

In 1966, Botha was appointed law adviser at the South African Department of Foreign Affairs. In that capacity, he served on the delegation representing South Africa at the United Nations from 1966 to 1974. At this time, he was appointed South Africa's ambassador to the United Nations, but a month after he presented his credentials, South Africa was suspended from membership of the General Assembly. It remained a member of the UN, however, retained a legation throughout these years. Consequently, its flag continued to be flown every day until succeeded by the new flag in 1994, as a reflection of its continued membership of the organisation, if not of the General Assembly.


In 1970, Botha was elected to the House of Assembly as MP for Wonderboom in the Transvaal, leaving it in 1974. In 1975, Botha was appointed South Africa's Ambassador to the United States, in addition to his UN post. In 1977, he re-entered Parliament as MP for Westdene, and was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs by Prime Minister B. J. Vorster.

Botha entered the contest to be the leader of the National Party in 1978. He was allegedly considered Vorster's favourite and received superior public support among whites (We want Pik!) but withdrew after criticism concerning his young age, lack of experience (having spent 16 months as foreign minister) and alleged liberal beliefs as opposed to the ultra-conservative NP machinery (in which he lacked a significant position), instead giving support for P. W. Botha, who was ultimately elected.[3]

In 1985, Pik Botha helped to draft a speech that would have announced common decision-making on all levels in a single constitutional unit and a formula for bringing about the release of Nelson Mandela, but this draft was rejected by P. W. Botha.[4]

The next year, he stated publicly (during a press conference in Parliament, asked by German journalist Thomas Knemeyer) that it would be possible for South Africa to be ruled by a black president provided that there were guarantees for minority rights, but was quickly forced to acknowledge that this position did not reflect government policy.[5]

In December 1988 Pik Botha flew to Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, with Defence Minister Magnus Malan, and signed a peace protocol with Denis Sassou-Nguesso, President of the Republic of the Congo, and with Angolan and Cuban signatories. At the signing he said "A new era has begun in South Africa. My government is removing racial discrimination. We want to be accepted by our African brothers".[6]

Namibian independence[edit]

On 22 December 1988, Pik Botha signed the tripartite agreement involving Angola, Cuba and South Africa at United Nations headquarters in New York City which led to the implementation of Security Council Resolution 435, and to South Africa's relinquishing control of Namibia after decades of defiance.[6]

On 21 December 1988, Botha, with a 22-strong South African delegation from Johannesburg, was initially booked to travel to the Namibian independence ratification ceremony in New York on Pan Am Flight 103 from London. Instead, the booking was cancelled as he and six delegates took an earlier flight, thereby avoiding the fatal PA 103 bombing at Lockerbie, Scotland.[7]

National unity[edit]

Botha subsequently served as Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs in South Africa's first post-apartheid government from 1994 to 1996 under President Nelson Mandela.

Botha became deputy leader of the National Party in the Transvaal from 1987 to 1996. He retired from politics in 1996 when F. W. de Klerk withdrew the National Party from the government of national unity.

In 2000, Botha declared his support for President Thabo Mbeki. Botha has more recently expressed criticism for the government's affirmative action policies saying that the then South African government would never have reached a constitutional settlement with the ANC in 1994 had it insisted on its current affirmative action programme.[8]

In an interview on affirmative action, Botha publicly declared that he has never been a member of the ANC, and will not join under its current policies.[9]

On 12 December 2013, Botha appeared on the BBC's Question Time, hosted in Johannesburg, discussing the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela.[10]


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Hilgard Muller
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by
Alfred Nzo