A file picture of Pik Botha in 2007. Picture: TYRONE ARTHUR
A file picture of Pik Botha in 2007. Picture: TYRONE ARTHUR

Pik Botha, who served as foreign affairs minister under three apartheid presidents before becoming minister of mineral and energy affairs in Nelson Mandela’s government of national unity, has died at the age of 86.

The SABC said Botha’s son, Roelof Botha, had confirmed his death. Botha was recently hospitalised after falling ill.

As foreign affairs minister in the cabinets of apartheid presidents BJ Vorster and PW Botha, Botha fought a losing battle to persuade the world that the policy was not a fundamental violation of human rights.

He established relationships with US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and managed to influence former US president Ronald Reagan and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher to oppose sanctions against SA.

He worked to build a coalition of African states that would work with the apartheid regime, but was ultimately unsuccessful as the continent turned on the apartheid state.

Botha, who came from the party’s “verligte” (enlightened) wing, attempted to get PW Botha to accept greater political rights for black South Africans and outraged the apartheid establishment when he stated publicly that the country would one day have a black president.

Botha’s greatest diplomatic achievement was the successful negotiation of independence for Namibia, a series of talks that involved Cuba and the US.