Pik Botha a 'colourful personality' who supported democracy - FW de Klerk‚ ANC

Former Foreign affairs minister Pik Botha.
Former Foreign affairs minister Pik Botha.
Image: Lisa Hnatowicz/Foto24/Gallo Images

Former president FW de Klerk has described the late Roelof "Pik" Botha as a valued colleague and friend‚ while President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday conveyed his condolences to family‚ friends and former colleagues.

"He was a unique and colourful personality who made an enormous contribution to the peaceful and constitutional resolution of the great historic challenges with which we had to wrestle before 1994‚" De Klerk said in a statement released by his foundation.

De Klerk said Botha's "colourful style and forthright rhetoric" won him widespread popularity among the white electorate and had also encouraged him‚ in 1978 and 1989‚ to stand as a candidate for the leadership of the National Party.

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 international pressure - until the collapse of international communism in 1989 opened the way to the negotiations that led to the establishment of a non-racial constitutional democracy.

Botha died at the age of 86 at his home in Pretoria on Thursday evening.

He was admitted to hospital late in September.

Botha was the world's longest-serving foreign minister.

He served as foreign affairs minister in the last years of the apartheid government and as minister of mineral and energy affairs under Nelson Mandela‚ South Africa's first democratically elected president.

He retired from politics in 1996 when the National Party withdrew from the government of national unity.

De Klerk said Botha was a "prominent and consistent" advocate of reform when discussions within the NP leadership in the 1980s took place to release Mandela from prison.

According to De Klerk‚ Botha also supported PW Botha's reform measures and was one of the strongest proponents of the constitutional transformation process that was initiated in 1990.

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa said Botha was a bold negotiator and an intelligent opponent.

Holomisa recalled the first time he spoke to Botha. It was a telephone conversation in which they discussed the removal of the leader of the Transkei's bantustan‚ George Matanzima‚ and Stella Sigcau.

Sigcau was a former public works minister. Holomisa said during the conversation he explained to Botha the corruption Matanzima and Sigcau were involved in.

"He again contacted us when he and FW de Klerk had concerns that the Transkei military government was taking unilateral decisions when we decided to work with the liberation movements‚" Holomisa said.

Holomisa said Botha was one of few NP leaders who opposed apartheid.

President Ramaphosa conveyed his condolences to family‚ friends and former colleagues of Botha.

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.

Mabe said the party was saddened by his death. "We acknowledge him for his positive contribution towards building a new and better South Africa. May his soul rest in peace."