Botha, Pieter Willem

Botha, Pieter Willem pēˈtər vĭlˈəm bōˈtə [key], 1916–2006, South African political leader. An Afrikaner and a member of the right-wing National party, he first entered parliament in 1948. Botha gained prominence as minister of defense (1966–80) and became prime minister in 1978. He initiated a limited reform of apartheid policies, establishing a new constitution that provided legislative chambers for whites, Coloureds (persons of mixed race), and Asians but excluded the black majority; under it, he became executive president in 1984. While hinting at the possibility of dismantling apartheid, and beginning negotiations with Nelson Mandela, he promoted the bantustan (homelands) policy, violently repressed dissent, encouraged tribal rivalries within the country, and actively destabilized neighboring nations, particularly those that harbored African National Congress forces. Reelected in 1987, he resigned over party differences in 1989 and was succeeded by F. W. de Klerk. His 1998 contempt conviction for refusing to testify before the Truth Commission regarding apartheid-era crimes was overturned by an appeals court.

See Fighter and Reformer: Extracts from the Speeches of P. W. Botha (1989); B. Pottinger, The Imperial Presidency: P. W. Botha, the First 10 Years (1988).

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