Politicians and family members have paid tribute to apartheid-era foreign minister Pik Botha.

Botha died at the age of 86 at his home in Pretoria on Thursday evening.

President Cyril Ramaphosa conveyed his condolences to Botha's family‚ friends and former colleagues, former president FW de Klerk described him as a valued colleague and friend‚ UDM leader Bantu Holomisa remembered his enlightened stance, while Botha’s son, Roelof Botha, said his family would forever cherish the fond memories they shared and values they learnt from him.

Ramaphosa said Botha would be remembered for his support for the country's transition to democracy. ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said Botha was one of few NP leaders who realised at an early stage that apartheid was wrong and a crime against humanity.

He said the party was saddened by his death. "We acknowledge him for his positive contribution towards building a new and better SA. May his soul rest in peace."

Roelof Botha said: "As a boy‚ when I went to say goodnight to him‚ I would often find him next to his bed‚ reading the Bible. He taught us as kids that we should never lose that spiritual anchor and that we should seek out knowledge‚ because knowledge is power.”

Botha said the family was extremely sad at the loss of their father‚ but prepared for it. "We saw it coming‚ because his health deteriorated very quickly in the last few weeks. We knew that it was really close‚" Roelof said.

De Klerk said: "He was a unique and colourful personality who made an enormous contribution to the peaceful and constitutional resolution of the great historic challenges with which we had to wrestle before 1994‚"  in a statement released by his foundation.

De Klerk said Botha's "colourful style and forthright rhetoric" won him widespread popularity among the white electorate and had also encouraged him‚ in 1978 and 1989‚ to stand as a candidate for the leadership of the National Party.

He said Botha's most important contribution was the manner in which he and his colleagues in the department of foreign affairs held the line against growing international pressure — until the collapse of international communism in 1989 opened the way to the negotiations that led to the establishment of a nonracial constitutional democracy.

De Klerk said Botha was a "prominent and consistent" advocate of reform when discussions within the NP leadership in the 1980s took place to release late president Nelson Mandela from prison.

According to De Klerk‚ Botha also supported PW Botha's reform measures and was one of the strongest proponents of the constitutional transformation process that was initiated in 1990.

Holomisa said Botha was a bold negotiator and an intelligent opponent. He recalled the first time he spoke to Botha — it was a telephone conversation in which they discussed the removal of the leader of the Transkei's bantustan‚ George Matanzima‚ and Stella Sigcau.

Sigcau was a former public works minister. Holomisa said during the conversation he explained to Botha the corruption Matanzima and Sigcau were involved in.

"He again contacted us when he and FW de Klerk had concerns that the Transkei military government was taking unilateral decisions when we decided to work with the liberation movements‚" Holomisa said.

Holomisa said Botha was one of few NP leaders who opposed apartheid.

Botha‚ who served as minister of mineral and energy affairs under Nelson Mandela‚ SA’s first democratically elected president‚ was seen as more enlightened than many in the apartheid government.

In a 2011 interview with the Sunday Times‚ he recalled:

“In 1986‚ after I said during an interview that we could have a black president in the future‚ I was severely reprimanded and almost fired. But within the party‚ the remorse in hearts and minds was growing and soon became intolerable‚ coupled with our acknowledgement that if we perpetuate apartheid‚ inevitably it would result in the destruction of the country.”

Satirist Pieter Dirk Uys — who delighted in mocking Nat politicians — commented on Botha’s passing with a tweet under his alter ego‚ Evita Bezuidenhout.

“Pik Botha‚ my best old friend from those times‚ is deceased. I will miss him terribly. Love to his family.”