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‘SA must remember Pik Botha’s role in establishing democracy’

The former South African foreign minister died on Thursday night at a Pretoria hospital at the age of 86.

Former Foreign Affairs Pik Botha during a conference at the Council Chambers at the Civic Centre in Cape Town to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of FW de Klerk's speech in Parliament in which he announced Nelson Mandela's release from prison and opened the way to South Africa's constitutional transformation. Picture: Gallo Images/Foto24/Nasief Manie

JOHANNESBURG - The Nelson Mandela Foundation says despite South Africa’s complex history, the country must remember the role Pik Botha played in establishing democracy.

Botha died on Thursday night at a Pretoria hospital at the age of 86.

He was the apartheid government’s foreign affairs minister for 17 years. After democracy, he served in Nelson Mandela’s Cabinet.

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

He retired from politics in 1996.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Sello Hatang said: “With the kind of complex history that we have, each one of us should be remembered for the part that we played towards the change... and also the bit that makes our history difficult needs to also be remembered. We hope that his family and friends will find peace."

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

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

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.

TRIBUTES

Former colleagues, friends and political parties have paid tribute to former government minister Pik Botha.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his condolences on the passing of Pik Botha.

Ramaphosa says that Botha will be remembered for his support for South Africa’s transition to democracy and for his service in the first democratic administration.

Former President FW de Klerk has also reacted to Botha’s death.

His foundation’s spokesperson Theuns Eloff: “He played a huge role in international relations in South Africa’s international standing, but he was also one of South Africa’s most reform-minded National Party Cabinet ministers. He also stood for National Party leadership because he was a likeable figure.”

National Party minister Roelf Meyer says he met Botha 40 years ago when he was appointed to the foreign affairs ministry.

He says that Botha played a pivotal role in steering the country towards democracy.

“I think Pik was a committed servant of change for most of his political life, if not all of his political life.”

Meyer says that Botha has always been an advocate for change.

WATCH: The life of Pik Botha

Additional reporting by AFP.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)

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