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Pik Botha obituary

Long-serving South African foreign minister whose career survived the end of apartheid

Roelof Frederik “Pik” Botha, who has died aged 86, became the world’s longest-serving foreign minister while acting as principal mouthpiece for the South African regime abroad – a daunting task which he carried out with remarkable aplomb and not without enjoyment.

Like other Afrikaner politicians, he could come across as slow when speaking English, as it was not his mother tongue, and so Botha was frequently underestimated. His stocky build, deep gravelly voice, military moustache and heavy features belied diplomatic skill and unexpected charm, gifts he deployed with panache. With his uncalvinistic joie de vivre, he could look flamboyant alongside such dour Afrikaner National party (NP) leaders as John Vorster, who promoted him, and his brutal namesake, PW Botha, who kept him on, as did FW de Klerk, the last head of the apartheid state.

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