Has Pik Botha been dead long enough for us to be honest about him? It was said after he died that he was garrulous, eccentric and warm-hearted. He was in fact a man of irrepressible nastiness who belittled and humiliated those who had less power than he did. In his memoir, High Noon in Southern Africa, the American diplomat Chester Crocker, who got to know Botha well as they negotiated the fate of Namibia, expressed his disgust at Botha’s behaviour. Following a long bilateral meeting in Cape Verde early on in Crocker’s relationship with him, “we watched in amazement as a member of the SAcabinet”, a barely disguised reference to Botha, “wilfully delayed an SAA jumbo jet and then tried to intimidate the enraged commander into silence”. The encounter, Crocker remarked, “served as a warning of things to come. We wondered about the ‘policy process’ among grown men who took such evident delight in making spectacles of themselves in the presence of foreigners, strangers and their own count...

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