Apartheid era leader Pik Botha dies

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Pik Botha, former South African foreign minister, listens to questions from members of the TRC (truth and reconciliation commission) 14 October at hearings in Johannesburg. Botha, once the world longest-serving foreign minister, was a member of the State Security Council, the inner sanctum of apartheid's security apparatus devised to combat anti apartheid liberation movements and suspected of links to the killings of political activists. (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN / AFP)

Pik Botha, who became the global face of South Africa’s reviled apartheid government as Pretoria’s minister of foreign affairs, has died aged 86 after a lengthy illness.

FILE PHOTO: Former South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha shakes hands with Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Johannesburg, South Africa, October 14,1997. REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya/File Photo

He served as foreign affairs minister in the last years of the apartheid government and as minister of mineral and energy affairs under Nelson Mandela‚ South Africa’s first democratically elected president

Botha had the unenviable job of defending apartheid on the world stage as South Africa grew increasingly isolated, facing economic sanctions abroad while imposing a state of emergency at home and attempting to destablise its African neighbours.

The Cold War provided the backdrop, as several countries in the region such as Angola and Mozambique allied themselves with Moscow, while Pretoria tried to portray itself as a bulwark against communist expansion.

Regarded as a skilled behind-the-scenes negotiator who loosened adversaries up over rounds of drinks, Botha’s accomplishments included securing a peace protocol that ended South Africa’s military involvement in Angola, where Cuban troops had been sent to defend the Marxist government.

That in turn helped pave the way for the independence of Namibia 1990, which also had an apartheid-style government and had been under South African administration for decades.

He also 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.

Botha 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 retired from politics in 1996 when the National Party withdrew from the government of national unity. In 2000‚ he announced that he would join the ANC.