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Apartheid-era minister Pik Botha dies at 86

Pik Botha passed away at a Pretoria hospital on Thursday night.

FILE: Pik Botha, former South African foreign minister, listens to questions from members of the TRC 14 October 1997 at hearings in Johannesburg. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Apartheid-era Foreign Affairs Minister Pik Botha has died at the age of 86. He passed away at a Pretoria hospital on Thursday night.

Botha served as Foreign Affairs Minister for 17 years until the end of apartheid in 1994, and then joined Nelson Mandela's Cabinet after the end of white-minority rule and the country's first non-racial election in 1994.

"As you know, originally we were enemies," Botha told the BBC in 2013.

"From our point of view, (Mandela) led an organisation which we regarded as a terrorist organisation and they saw themselves as freedom fighters.

"Of course all that had to change. It is not always that simple and easy to change mental attitudes, mindsets but eventually it did change. He played the role of a saviour."

Botha was described by some as a "good man working for a bad government" despite years defending the apartheid system.

He had several clashes with the hardline government of president PW Botha, who was no relation.

[GALLERY] The political life of Pik Botha

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

The following year he said that the country could one day be ruled by a black president, earning a public rebuke from his boss.

Botha served as mines and energy minister in Mandela's government before retiring in 1996.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa has offered his condolences tweeting: "His role in pressuring the NP leadership to change for the betterment of SA and its people is well-documented."

Former Cabinet minister Adriaan Vlok served alongside Botha: "We'd known each other for many years. Our relationship started when we were still civil servants. I was still serving in the office of Mr John Vorster as a clerk and he was already with the case of South West Africa in the Hague. Our relationship goes back many years."

Vlok was speaking with CapeTalk's Kieno Kammies earlier on Friday morning.

LISTEN: The life & times of Pik Botha

Additional reporting by AFP.

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