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Tributes pour in for 'servant of change' Pik Botha

Botha passed away overnight in Pretoria.

FILE: Pik Botha, former South African foreign minister, goes through his notes while members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission board are in discussion during hearings in Johannesburg on 14 October 1997. Picture: AFP

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

Botha passed away overnight in Pretoria.

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

Botha served as the minister of mineral and energy affairs in the government of national unity. But before that, he was the world’s longest-serving foreign affairs minister during the apartheid era.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko said: “The president has said that Mr Botha will be remembered for his service to the democratic government for a period of two years as the minister of mineral and energy affairs. But also the support that he gave during very difficult times to South Africa’s transition to democracy. The president wishes the family of Botha strength during this difficult time.”

Diko says it’s too soon to say whether he will be afforded an official funeral.

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

His foundation's spokesperson Theuns Eloff said: "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 likable 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.

LISTEN: The life & times of Pik Botha

In 2000, Botha famously changed allegiance from the National Party to the African National Party (ANC).

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa has sent his condolences.

"He was one of the few who batted on the wicket for change from the era of PW Botha."

GALLERY: The political life of Pik Botha

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.

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.

Additional reporting by AFP.

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