PW Botha gives the “Rubicon” Speech in Durban


P.W. Botha

Thursday, 15 August 1985

On the night of 15 August 1985, South Africa's President P. W. Botha delivered the infamous "Rubicon" Speech in Durban. Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Pik Botha, had told the world to expect a radical policy shift but was wrong. Among the expected policy shifts which did not materialize was the release of Nelson Mandela.

P. W. Botha disappointed his western allies by refusing to consider immediate and major reforms in the country's apartheid system. This meant the abolishing of the apartheid system. In a speech that had been preceded by hints that sweeping changes would be announced, Botha told a meeting of his National Party, he would press ahead with reform programmes, which were aimed at consolidating the power his party had, but would not give in to hostile pressure and agitation from abroad, which only encouraged militants. After this speech the Rand traded very low against the dollar and economic sanctions against South Africa followed.

Click here for ANC's response to PW Botha's Rubicon Speech

• Mercer, D. (1988). Chronicle of the 20th Century, London: Chronicle Communications, p. 144.
• exmedia,(1985),'pw botha gives the rubicon speech in durban',[online],Available at 13 August 2013)
• Giliomee, H. (2012) ‘The day apartheid started dying’, from Mail & Guardian, 26 October, [online], available at (Accessed: 15 August 2013)

Last updated : 15-Aug-2013

This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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