The death of former foreign affairs minister Pik Botha has been met with mixed reactions from South Africans, with some labelling him a defender of apartheid and others hailing the role he played in the transition from the oppressive regime to a democratic South Africa.
Botha died at his Pretoria home yesterday morning at the age of 86 following a lengthy illness.
He had been hospitalised towards the end of last month, although no reason was given for the hospitalisation.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said the man who was part of the National Party would be remembered for his support for this country’s liberation and for his service in the first democratic administration.
Botha served as the minister of mineral and energy affairs in Nelson Mandela’s Cabinet between 1994 and 1996.
The ANC also paid tribute to Botha, describing him as one of the few within the National Party who recognised at an early stage that apartheid was wrong and a crime against humanity.
In the early days of our democracy, the ANC reached out to former apartheid ‘verligtes’ (the doves) like (Pik) Botha, within the context of building a new South Africa and offered him a role in the Government of National Unity.
“While some of the apartheid architects continued to undermine the gains of democracy post-1994 by fuelling racial tensions, as a part of his newly found enlightenment Botha joined the ANC in Tshwane in 2000,” ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said.
United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said Botha’s role in pressurising the National Party leadership to change for the betterment of South Africa and its people was well-documented.
Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said he was saddened by Botha’s passing, having spent two years sitting next to him in the first democratic cabinet under Mandela.
“I wish I kept all the scribbled notes he passed on to me. Great intellect, great sense of humour, condolences to the family,” Hanekom said.
Kim Heller, a political analyst, said that Botha was a key master in an evil, racist and oppressive regime.
“He and other apartheid leaders have never been held to account for this unforgivable crime against humanity. That is what we should be mourning today,” Heller said.
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi tweeted: “This one called Pik Botha defended apartheid and delayed our freedom. He even died without telling us who engineered the death of comrade Samora Machel. Don’t include me in your praises