Pik Botha was born on 27 April 1932 in Rustenburg, Transvaal.His father was a school principal. Pik as he is affectionately known attended the Hoer Volkskool, Potchefstroom, and was a good all-round pupil, becoming chairman of debating society, head of the Voortrekkers, a member of the rugby team, an officer in the school cadets, and was top of his class.
He completed his B.A. LL.B at the University of Pretoria and in February 1953, he joined the South African Department of Foreign Affairs. In June 1956 he was transferred to the South African Mission in Stockholm, Sweden, as third secretary, and in January 1960, he moved on to the South African Embassy in Cologne, West Germany. Following his transfer back to Pretoria in January 1963 he became a member of the South African legal team in the South West African case (Ethiopia and Liberia vs South Africa) at the international Court of Justice, The Hague, from 1963-66. He represented the South African Government as Agent in the case from 1965-66 and it was at this time that he first became publicly known in South Africa.
Botha was appointed Law Adviser of the Department of Foreign Affairs in February 1966, and between 1966 and 1974 attended seven sessions of the United Nations General Assembly as a member of the South African delegation.
During this time he was promoted to the post of Under Secretary and Head of the South West African and United Nations-Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs. However, a month after presenting his credentials as Ambassador to the U.N, South Africa was suspended and Botha returned home.
In 1970 Botha’ life turned from that of a career diploma to politics and on 22 April he won the Wonderboom seat for the National Party, and held it again in 1974. In the early 1970’s, Botha was a member of the South African legal team in the 1970-71 case before the International Court of Justice on the South West Africa question. As a Member of Parliament, he served on a number of special committees, including the Committee of Public Accounts from 1970-74.
In 1975 Botha was appointed South African Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the USA, combining this post with that of permanent representative at the United Nations. During this time he was very much in the public eye with his distinct, assertive style of diplomacy and he became a popular figure amongst White South Africans.
In April 1977 he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and in the same year became Member of Parliament for Westdene, the constituency he still represents. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, Botha recognized the connection between domestic policy and foreign affairs and openly indicated his ‘verligte’ (enlightened) viewpoint. In March 1980 he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs and Information. In 1978 Pik Botha stood as a candidate for the premiership in a move to block Dr Connie Mulder, who had become embroiled in the Information Affair, from taking over from B.J Vorster, who had retired. Although his candidature had no chance of succeeding, it drew votes from Dr Mulder enabling P.W. Botha to become Prime Minister.
1984 was high point in Botha’s career with numerous spectacular foreign affairs coups including the signing of the Nkomati Accord with Mozambique and the tour to European countries arranged for the Prime Minister, P.W. Botha, in May and June. In addition, arrangements were made for the Administrator-general of South West Africa, representatives from the Internal parties, and the South African authorities to meet with Sam Nujoma, leader of the South West African People’s Organisation, in Zambia. Coupled with this was on-going contact with the Angolan Government to prepare the way for cessation of hostilities and the independence on South West Africa/Namibia.
However, in September 1984 South Africa’s relations with Great Britain deteriorated when Botha announced that the South African government would renege on an undertaking to produce four South Africans charged with customs and excise offences in the United Kingdom for illegally exporting military hardware to South Africa. The reason given was Britain’s tardiness in resolving the Durban British consulate protection to avoid detention by the South African authorities.
In June 1985, South Africa’s diplomatic relations deteriorated further with the recall of the United States ambassador to Washington following an allege South African intelligence gathering operation in Cabinda, Angola, and addition, the French ambassador was recalled until may 1986.
In July 1985 Botha had to deal with the De Jonge affairs. Klass de Jonge, suspected of assisting the African National Congress, allegedly led police to the Dutch Embassy on the pretext of pointing out an arms cache. He then sought sanctuary in the embassy, which he partially entered before being recaptured by the police. De Jonge was later returned to the Dutch Embassy where he remained for a long period.
In February 1986, Pik Botha told reports that South Africa could be ruled by a Black President in the future, provided agreement was reached on protecting minority rights. At the end of the no-confidence debate in Parliament, the State President, P.W. Botha, issued a public repudiation of his Foreign Minister and endorsed the reaffirmation of apartheid policy outlined by other senior Nationalist Members of Parliament during the week’s debate. The State President stated that no member of the Cabinet had the right to compromise the government in such a way. Pik Botha was forced to acknowledge, by means of a letter to the State President, that a Black President was not government policy.
In 1987 Botha was the Deputy Leader of the National Party in the Transvaal and served on the Board of Governors of the Development Bank of Southern Africa. Botha is married to Helena Susanna (born Bosman) and they have two sons and two daughters. Botha was appointed Minister of Mineral of Energy Affairs in 1994. He resigned from this post in May 1996. In 2000 Botha applied for African National Congress membership as well as publicly expressing his support for then-President Thabo Mbeki.
He passed away on 12 October 2018 after a brief illness.
Gastrow .S. (1983).