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

Pik Botha with Nelson Mandela at a rally in 1994

Pik Botha with Nelson Mandela at a rally in 1994 Credit Avusa Johan Kuus Rex

In 1994, Pik Botha was one of the world's longest-serving foreign ministers. He was considered a liberal but the bulk of his career was spent defending South Africa's apartheid system of racial segregation against foreign criticism. It is not always that simple and easy to change mental attitudes, mindsets but eventually it did change.

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

In 1986 he predicted that South Africa might one day have a black president, a statement that earned him a stern rebuke from president P.W. Botha, who was no relation.

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

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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.

Botha passed away at a Pretoria hospital on Thursday night.

Pik Botha, who was not related to the apartheid-era president, later served for two years as minister of mineral and energy affairs under Mandela, and said in 2000 that he would join the African National Congress, the ruling party that had led the movement against white minority rule for decades.

"He was very sick during the last three weeks and his body just couldn't take it anymore".

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Roelof Frederik Botha was born in 1932 in Rustenburg, Transvaal.

Condolences are pouring in from leaders across the South African political spectrum.

Botha, also a former South African ambassador to the United States, was foreign minister from 1977 until the end of apartheid in 1994.

The 1980s saw tough challenges as global opposition to the apartheid regime grew.

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