P. W. Botha
|“||I am one of those who believe that there is no permanent home for even a section of the Bantu in the white area of South Africa and the destiny of South Africa depends on this essential point. If the principle of permanent residence for the black man in the area of the white is accepted then it is the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it in this country.||„|
|~ Botha in a speech to Parliament on May 11, 1964.|
Pieter Willem Botha, DMS (12 January 1916 – 31 October 2006), commonly known as "P. W." and Die Groot Krokodil (Afrikaans for "The Great Crocodile"), was the leader of South Africa from 1978 to 1989, serving as the last Prime Minister from 1978 to 1984 and the first executive State President from 1984 to 1989.
Pieter Willem Botha was born on a farm in the Paul Roux district of the Orange Free State Province (now Free State Province), the son of Afrikaner parents. His father, Pieter Willem Botha Sr., fought as a commando against the British in the Second Boer War. His mother, Hendrina Christina Botha (née de Wet), was interned in a British concentration camp during the war.
Botha initially attended the Paul Roux School and matriculated from Voortrekker Secondary School in Bethlehem, South Africa. In 1934, he entered the Grey University College (now the University of the Free State) in Bloemfontein to study law, but left early at the age of twenty in order to pursue a career in politics. He began working for the National Party as a political organiser in the neighbouring Cape Province.
In the run-up to World War II, Botha joined the Ossewabrandwag, a right-wing Afrikaner nationalist group which was sympathetic to the German Nazi Party; but months after the German attack on the USSR, Botha condemned the Ossewabrandwag and changed his ideological allegiance to Christian nationalism.
First elected to Parliament in 1948, Botha was an outspoken opponent of majority rule and international communism. However, his administration did make concessions towards political reform, whereas internal unrest saw widespread human rights abuses at the hands of the government. Botha resigned as leader of the ruling National Party (NP) in February 1989 after suffering a stroke and six months later was also coerced to leave the presidency.
In F. W. de Klerk's 1992 apartheid referendum, Botha campaigned for a No vote and denounced De Klerk's administration as irresponsible for opening the door to black majority rule. In early 1998, when Botha refused to testify at the Mandela government's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), he was supported by the right-wing Conservative Party, which had earlier contested his rule as the official opposition. For his refusal, he was fined and given a suspended jail sentence for crimes against humanity. The sentence was overturned on appeal. Shortly before his death in late 2006, he renewed his opposition towards egalitarian democracy in favour of a confederate system based upon the principles of "separate development."
In superficial ways, Botha's application of the apartheid system was less repressive than that of his predecessors. He legalised interracial marriage and miscegenation, both completely banned since the late 1940s. The constitutional prohibition on multiracial political parties was lifted. He also relaxed the Group Areas Act, which barred non-whites from living in certain areas. In 1988, a new law created "Open Group Areas" or racially mixed neighbourhoods. But these neighbourhoods had to receive a Government permit, had to have the support of the local whites immediately concerned, and had to be an upper-class neighbourhood in a major city in order to be awarded a permit. In 1983, the above constitutional reforms granted limited political rights to "Coloureds" and "Indians". Botha also became the first South African government leader to authorise contacts with Nelson Mandela, the imprisoned leader of the African National Congress (ANC).
However, in the face of rising discontent and violence, Botha refused to cede political power to blacks and imposed greater security measures against anti-apartheid activists. Botha also refused to negotiate with the ANC. On the other hand, even these meager reforms went too far for a group of NP hardliners, led by former Education Minister Andries Treurnicht. In 1982, they broke away to form the Conservative Party.
In 1985, Botha delivered the Rubicon speech which was a policy address in which he refused to give in to demands by the black population, including the release of Mandela. Botha's defiance of international opinion further isolated South Africa, leading to economic sanctions and a rapid decline in the value of the rand. The following year, when the US introduced the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, Botha declared a nationwide state of emergency. He is famously quoted during this time as saying, "This uprising will bring out the beast in us".
As economic and diplomatic actions against South Africa increased, civil unrest spread amongst the black population, supported by the ANC and neighbouring black-majority governments. On 16 May 1986, Botha publicly warned neighbouring states against engaging in "unsolicited interference" in South Africa's affairs. Four days later, Botha ordered air strikes against selected targets in Lusaka, Harare, and Gaborone, including the offices of exiled ANC activists. Botha charged that these raids were just a "first installment" and showed that "South Africa has the capacity and the will to break the [ANC]."
In spite of the concessions made by Botha, the apartheid years under his leadership were by far the most brutal. Thousands were detained without trial during Botha's presidency, while others were tortured and killed. The TRC found Botha responsible for gross violations of human rights. He was also found to have directly authorised "unlawful activity which included killing." However, Botha refused to apologise for apartheid. In a 2006 interview to mark his 90th birthday, he suggested that he had no regrets about the way he had run the country. He denied, however, that he had ever considered black South Africans to be in any way inferior to whites, but conceded that "some" whites did hold that view. He also claimed that the apartheid policies were inherited from the British colonial administration in the Cape and Natal Province, implying that he considered them something he and his government had followed by default.