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Pik Botha

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Pik Botha
Botha at the White House in 1981
Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs
In office
27 April 1994 – May 1996
PresidentNelson Mandela
Preceded byGeorge Bartlett
Succeeded byPenuel Maduna
Deputy Leader of the
National Party in Transvaal
In office
LeaderF. W. de Klerk
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
27 April 1977 – 10 May 1994
PresidentF. W. de Klerk (1989–94)
P. W. Botha (1984–89)
Prime MinisterP. W. Botha (1978–84)
B.J. Vorster (1966–78)
Preceded byHilgard Muller
Succeeded byAlfred Nzo
Member of Parliament
In office
ConstituencyWestdene, Johannesburg
In office
22 April 1970 – 1974
ConstituencyWonderboom, Pretoria
South African Ambassador to the United States
In office
30 July 1975 – 11 May 1977
Prime MinisterB.J. Vorster
Preceded byJohan Samuel Frederick Botha
Succeeded byDonald Bell Sole
Personal details
Roelof Frederik Botha

(1932-04-27)27 April 1932
Rustenburg, Transvaal, Union of South Africa
Died12 October 2018(2018-10-12) (aged 86)
Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa
Political partyNational (until 1997)
Helena Susanna Bosman
(m. 1953; died 1996)
Ina Joubert
(m. 1998)
Alma materUniversity of Pretoria
OccupationDiplomat and politician

Roelof Frederik "Pik" Botha, DMS MP (27 April 1932 – 12 October 2018) was a South African politician who served as the country's foreign minister in the last years of the apartheid era, the longest-serving in South African history.[1] Known as a liberal within the party, Botha served to present a friendly, conciliatory face on the regime, while criticised internally. He was a leading contender for the leadership of the National Party upon John Vorster's resignation in 1978, but was ultimately not chosen.[2] Staying in the government after the first non-racial general election in 1994, he served under Mandela as Minister of Mineral and Energy Affairs from 1994 to 1996.

While testifying at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Botha was one of the few officials to repent for his involvement in the apartheid government. He said he'd realized that apartheid was morally wrong in the 1970s, but didn't do enough to "turn the tide" against the regime and prevent atrocities from being committed.[3]

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.[4]

He was not related to Prime Minister (later State President) P. W. Botha, under whom he served as foreign minister for 17 years.[5]

Early life[edit]

Botha was born at Rustenburg in the Transvaal,[6] to Roelof Frederik Botha and Maria Elizabeth Dreyer. At the age of four, he was struck by meningitis in Lourenço Marques (modern-day Maputo, Mozambique); he received treatment at a small hospital in Barberton, Transvaal, and his mother vowed that if he survived, he would become a church minister.[7]

Botha attended Paul Kruger Primary School, where his father was principal. He excelled in high school, becoming chairman of the debating society and officer in the school cadets.[7] Botha was also a writer of both prose and poetry in Afrikaans, and his writing supplemented his salary in his early years as a diplomat.[6] In his first year studying law 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.[7][8]

Diplomat and lawyer[edit]

Botha began his career in the South African foreign service in 1953, serving in Sweden and West Germany.[6] 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).[6]

In 1966, Botha was appointed legal adviser at the Department of Foreign Affairs, in which capacity he served on the delegation representing South Africa at the United Nations from 1967 to 1977.[6] In 1974, he was appointed South Africa's permanent representative to the United Nations[6] and presented his credentials to Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim on 15 October 1974;[9] in November of that year, however, South Africa was suspended from membership of the General Assembly and, over the ensuing years, the country was excluded from official participation in virtually all of the UN's organs and agencies.[10]


In the elections of 1970 and 1974, Botha was elected to the House of Assembly as MP for Wonderboom in the Transvaal. In 1975, he 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. He continued to represent Westdene for the remainder of his political career.[11]

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 throwing his support behind P. W. Botha, who was ultimately elected.[12]

In 1985, 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.[13]

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.[14] Botha recalled in 2011 that he had been "severely reprimanded and almost fired" over his remarks.[15] In early 1986 he was also an instrumental figure in the South African government's negotiations with the Commonwealth Eminent Persons' Group (EPG). Although the Group's mission was aborted after the South African Military launched cross-border raids on ANC bases on 19 May, in the preceding months Pik Botha had engaged in extensive talks with the Group about a possible path to negotiations, including calls for a suspension of violence and the unbanning of the ANC.[16]

Throughout 1988 Botha was instrumental in lengthy peace talks between South Africa, Cuba, and the People's Republic of Angola aimed at ending the South African Border War. On 13 December 1988, Botha and Defence Minister Magnus Malan ratified the Brazzaville Protocol, which led to the effective cessation of hostilities in that conflict.[17]

Namibian independence[edit]

On 22 December 1988, Botha signed the Tripartite Accord 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 granting of independence to Namibia.[17]

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 PA103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland.[18]

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.[19] Botha had first met Mandela in May 1990 at the historic Groote Schuur Minute, and was highly impressed by Mandela's knowledge of Afrikaner history.[15]

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.[20][21]

While testifying at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Botha was one of the few officials to repent for his involvement in the apartheid government. He said he'd realized that apartheid was morally wrong in the 1970s, but didn't do enough to "turn the tide" against the regime and prevent atrocities from being committed, which he blamed on South African security forces.[3]

In 2000, Botha declared his support for President Thabo Mbeki.

In 2013, Botha expressed criticism for the government's affirmative action policies saying that the South African government of 1994 would never have reached a constitutional settlement with the ANC had it insisted on its current affirmative action programme.[22] In an interview on affirmative action, Botha publicly declared that he had never been a member of the ANC, and would not join under its current policies.[23]

On 12 December 2013, Botha appeared on the BBC's Question Time, hosted in Johannesburg, discussing the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Botha married Helena Bosman in 1953, with whom he had two daughters, Anna Hertzog and the artist Lien Botha as well as two sons, the rock musician Piet Botha (1955-2019) and the economist Roelof Botha.[25] Among Botha's eight grandchildren is grandson Arend Botha theologian and musician, and Roelof Botha, former CFO of PayPal.[25][26][27] Helena died in 1996, after having been ill, including being partially paralysed, following a fall in her home in 1991.[28] Two years later, Botha married Ina Joubert, a former journalist with the SABC.[6][29]

Botha died of natural causes at his home in Pretoria on 12 October 2018 at the age of 86.[30][31]



  1. ^ "Apartheid-era foreign affairs minister Pik Botha has died". TimesLive. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Opinion: FW de Klerk was a pragmatist – not a man driven by ideology". The Independent. 11 November 2021. Archived from the original on 26 May 2022. Retrieved 20 November 2021.
  3. ^ a b Obituaries, Telegraph (12 October 2018). "Pik Botha, South African government minister forced to defend apartheid – obituary". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 20 May 2024.
  4. ^ A smart penguin, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The Spectator, 7 April 1984, page 9
  5. ^ Funteriano, Andre (12 October 2018). "Explainer: Are you confusing Pik Botha with PW Botha? Meet both". briefly.co.za. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Van der Vat, Dan (12 October 2018). "Pik Botha obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Pik Botha – waves of politspeak janiallan.com. 24 January 2014
  8. ^ Vat, Dan van der (12 October 2018). "Pik Botha obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  9. ^ "New Permanent Representative of South Africa Presents Credentials". United Nations Photo. 15 October 1974. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  10. ^ "United Nations: History and Present Status". Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Republic of South Africa. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  11. ^ Donaldson, Andrew (12 October 2018). "Pik Botha: A good man working for a bad government". news24.com. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  12. ^ SOUTH AFRICA: The Not-So-Favorite Choice, Time, 9 October 1978
  13. ^ The Rubicon revisited, Hermann Giliomee, Politicsweb, 20 August 2008
  14. ^ Apartheid still spits in face of ANC, The Star, 14 March 2013
  15. ^ a b "FROM THE ARCHIVES | What I've learnt: Pik Botha". Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  16. ^ "South Africa: Pik Botha letter to co-Chairmen of the Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons (Commonwealth Group's 'possible negotiating concept') ["if the South African Government does move along the lines suggested... and violence continues or increases.. | Margaret Thatcher Foundation". www.margaretthatcher.org. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  17. ^ a b Cuba, Angola, South Africa Sign Accord, The Washington Post, 14 December 1988
  18. ^ Lockerbie and the conspiracy theories, The Daily Telegraph, 20 August 2009
  19. ^ Mtshali, Samkelo (13 October 2018). "News of #PikBotha's death draws mixed reaction in political arena". iol.ca.za. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  20. ^ "South Africa shaken by sudden resignation of De Klerk's party". The Irish Times. 10 May 1996. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  21. ^ Madisa, Kgothatso (12 October 2018). "Pik Botha one of 'leading personalities in SA politics' – De Klerk". Sowetan Live. Retrieved 14 October 2018.
  22. ^ ANC broke AA agreement, says Pik Botha, Fin24, 16 August 2013
  23. ^ Regstel-aksie ‘tref swartes ergste’, Beeld, 16 August 2013 (in Afrikaans)
  24. ^ BBC Question Time in South Africa: Who's Who, The Daily Telegraph, 12 December 2013
  25. ^ a b "Pik Botha: What an honour to know this man | IOL Business Report". Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  26. ^ "SA prodigy, Pik Botha's 43yo grandson, to lead Silicon Valley's top VC firm". Fin24. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  27. ^ "Pik Botha's last days recalled by family". Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  28. ^ "Helena Botha, Wife of South African Minister, Dies After Long Illness". AP NEWS. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  29. ^ tinashe (23 April 2012). "Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pik Botha, marries Ina Joubert, ex-journalist of the SABC, on his birthday in Pretoria". South African History Online. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  30. ^ "Former foreign affairs minister Pik Botha dies". News24. 12 October 2018.
  31. ^ "Key apartheid figure Pik Botha dies". BBC. 12 October 2018.
  32. ^ Shelagh Gastrow (1986). Who's Who In South African Politics. Johannesburg: Ravan Press. p. 50. ISBN 9780869752807 – via Internet Archive.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by