Moeletsi Mbeki remembers longtime friend Pik Botha

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Pik Botha died at a Pretoria hospital on Thursday at the of 86.

FILE: South African Foreign Affairs Minister Pik Botha in Pretoria on 26 October 1988. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Political economist Moeletsi Mbeki says his longtime friend Pik Botha should be remembered for his work during negotiations to solve the problems of the apartheid era.

Former colleagues, friends and political parties have paid tribute to the former foreign affairs minister who served under three apartheid presidents before serving in Nelson Mandela's Cabinet.

He died at a Pretoria hospital on Thursday at the of 86.

Mbeki says he's saddened by Botha's passing.

“We were friends and in fact, I went to visit him on Tuesday this week. So, I guess historians and experts on judgement will pass their judgement but it’s not for me to pass judgment on him.”

At the same time, Wits University Professor David Block says he met Botha together with physicist Stephen Hawking and Mandela.

Block says Botha had a brilliant mind.

“He was a deeply philosophical man and at that meeting was me, Botha, Hawking and Mandela and we listened to what everyone had to say.”

Former National Party Minister Roelf Meyer says Botha was a public servant.

“It was never about him personally, it was about what he thought was in the interest of the country and the people that he served. It’s good to know that he contributed to transitioning South Africa and was actually part of the transition to the extent that he served in the Cabinet of Mandela.”

WATCH: The life of Pik Botha

An apartheid-era minister, Botha is seen by some as having been more liberal than his National Party (NP) colleagues.

In 1986, he stunned many and invoked the ire of his party for saying it was possible that South Africa could one day be ruled by a black president.

Still, many believe there's little to celebrate about his legacy.