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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

P.W Botha Former leader of South Africa, committed to state terrorism and murder to stop majority rule


PW Botha, who has died aged 90, ruled South Africa under apartheid for 11 years until 1989, and was gradually exposed during his long decline as one of the most evil men of the 20th century, committed to state terrorism, war and murder to thwart black majority rule.
The October 1998 report of the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, before which Botha refused to appear, earning a conviction for contempt, said he had been responsible for "gross violations of human rights". As prime minister from 1978 to 1984, and then state president until 1989, he was also chairman of the State Security Council, and made remarks "in its meetings and recommendations that were highly ambiguous and were interpreted as authorising the killing of people".
According to the commission, he took no action against government agents who carried out atrocities, and supported covert operations "destabilising the governments of neighbouring countries". He also ordered police to blow up the Johannesburg offices of anti-apartheid groups. The nickname "Great Crocodile" was hard-earned.
Pieter Willem Botha was born in Bethlehem in the Orange Free State, where his father, a "bitter-ender" who had fought the British to the last gasp of the Boer war, was a horse farmer. His mother was interned in one of Lord Kitchener's concentration camps and the young PW, as he was usually known, inherited the sour, bullying, anglophobic obduracy that became his trademark from his parents.
He joined the pro-Nazi "Ossewabrandwag" movement in 1939, but, never over-burdened with moral courage, found it too risky and left after two years, avoiding internment. A politician all his adult life, Botha was already active in the Afrikaner National Party (NP). He became MP for the Cape Province constituency of George when the NP won power in the white electoral landslide of 1948. It sustained Afrikaner political domination until ousted by Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC) in 1994.
The qualities he showed in support of his ambition included ruthlessness, organisational efficiency, discipline and a liking for hard work (he was still doing a 12-hour day in his 70s). This won the attention of the messiah of apartheid, Dr Hendrik Verwoerd, who made him a deputy minister in 1958.
His first full departmental post was as minister for community development and coloured affairs from 1961. As such, he was paternalistically responsible for the coloured racial group, in apartheid terms those of ethnically mixed origin, concentrated mainly in Cape Province. As an adoptive Cape politician, Botha always prided himself on his special feeling for the coloureds. This did not prevent him from ordering the demolition, as a blight on the city, of Cape Town's coloured quarter, District Six.
As District Six fell, so did Verwoerd, assassinated by an alleged madman in 1966 and succeeded by "iron man" John Vorster, who promoted Botha to minister of defence. This cherished promotion precipitated a lifelong love of the military, including acts of war and covert operations at home and abroad.
Botha brought South Africa close to self-sufficiency in weaponry, circumventing the UN arms embargo where import substitution failed. The state-owned arms corporation produced cannon that were regarded as the best of their kind. Major warships, the latest aircraft and helicopters were beyond reach, but three small submarines were acquired from France, while Israel proved a surprisingly willing partner in such joint enterprises as missiles - and nuclear technology. When the US secretly backed the increasingly blatant South African interventions in the Angolan civil war against the FPLA government backed by Cuban troops, Botha was able to acquire munitions and spares in cornucopian quantities.
When Vorster was kicked upstairs as non-executive state president in 1978 in the wake of the "Muldergate" corruption scandal, the NP felt the same need for a strong man as it had when Verwoerd died. Who better to face the "total onslaught" by communists and blacks than the man who had built up the strongest military power in Africa - even if his power-base was the Cape NP rather than Verwoerd's Transvaal?
Botha soon stunned everyone by pronouncing apartheid dead. "Adapt or die" became his watchword as he foreshadowed "reform" without precedent. The world fondly imagined he would abolish discrimination as he became the first South African leader to visit Soweto, Johannesburg's south-western township, and travelled abroad more than any of his NP predecessors. However, the furthest he was prepared to go was to shift the great divide in South African politics from between white and non-white to between non-black and black.
But progress could not be stemmed altogether. One of the most important changes under Botha's leadership was the legalisation of black trade unions in 1979, giving African industrial labour a real voice. "Petty" apartheid (anything but petty to its victims) was radically cut back: the fatuous laws banning marriage and sex between different races were repealed, the notorious pass laws, the British legacy that controlled the movements of Africans, and the ban on black freehold ownership were also scrapped.

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