It is common cause that a country’s foreign policy is a mere extension of its domestic policy as articulated through that country’s foreign affairs department — and in the final analysis through its foreign affairs minister. In this regard, it was Pik Botha who so eloquently and arrogantly defended the apartheid state from 1977-1994.
His joining the governing ANC party in the 1990s does not exonerate him from his evildoing through the many preceding years of apartheid.
In fact, I would argue that he was intelligent enough to know that after he took care of some serious political business, joining the ANC was the right thing to do — and it would certainly give him the necessary political and humanitarian credentials, which, I might add, it did.
But a villain, like Richard the Third, he was, self-declared for all the world to know.
“I defend apartheid and don’t you lecture me on morals and ethics,” is what he would tell the world powers.
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots I have laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophesies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous…
– From Richard III, spoken by Gloucester
Not only did he defend apartheid against all odds and logic at times, he also ensured that, with Western powers, the transition to majority rule in both Namibia and South Africa was done in such a way that those countries were left with very little to effect much-needed change and instead set one brother against the other.
He succeeded in ensuring delays in the implementation of sanctions against the apartheid government by the West till as late as 1986. He is the one who negotiated arms deals with Western powers such as the French, in support of the apartheid defence force.
In the case of Namibia, UN Resolution 435, which paved the way to Namibian independence, came about because of events in the South African Border War in 1988 in Angola. The battle of Cuito Cuanavale saw massive defeats on both sides (the South African Defence Force/ Unita and Cuban/ MPLA forces) which eventually led to negotiations to find a conclusion to the ongoing conflict.
Pik Botha was instrumental in those negotiations, which on the one hand can be lauded as a good thing because it was about the independence of Namibia, but on the other hand it was about protecting South African rights and sovereignty, which is no doubt what Pik was doing in those negotiations.
Both he and his National Party ilk did not want to see an independent Namibia — they loathed such an outcome. He even went to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to defend South African rule over the then South West Africa. The writing was on the wall for the racist apartheid government because their Western allies insisted that they change with the times (evidenced by the falling of the Berlin Wall) or suffer the consequences.
It was then that Pik Botha, the one we so revere, kicked into action. It was he who led the charge, saying that blacks could not be in the possession of weapons of mass destruction. It was he who was at the forefront of negotiations with the US and the Atomic Energy Agency to dismantle South Africa’s six nuclear weapons, the missile launching and/or delivery systems infrastructure and also for good measure a newly developed satellite — at a cost of millions — just so that black South Africans did not get their hands on such technology. The racist in him set the country back several decades in terms of advanced technologies.
Then there is the bitter reality of the assassinations of exiles perpetrated by various apartheid covert structures, whether it be Stratcom, the Security Branch, NIS, Koevoet and the Directorate of Covert Collection, to mention but a few. All of which Pik Botha knew about, by virtue of being a member of the State Security Council, and defended on numerous international platforms.
Then after he served his racist party diligently over a four-decade span, just as the tide was changing in our country, he joined the African National Congress of Mandela. Wasn’t he just adorable?
Such trickery by “Richard III” might sit well with those in the ANC now marching in his name, demanding that he has a state funeral, but I am not so easily swayed, my friends.
Pik Botha was a racist to the core and I will elect to remember him as such. History must reflect that we, as black South Africans, might have the propensity to forgive, but we will never forget. Pik Botha was a villain until the end. DM