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PW Botha on the ‘so-called apartheid policy’

Former president Nelson Mandela at one stage asked PW Botha to re-enter politics and resume the leadership of the National Party (NP), Botha says in a filmed interview with former South African Broadcasting Corporation journalist Cliff Saunders.

In the interview, copies of which were released for sale to the public on Saturday, Botha says it is well known that Mandela at his own request met him several times, in Cape Town and at Botha’s Wilderness home.

”At one stage he was sitting in this very room [in Wildnerness] and he requested me to come back into politics as leader of the National Party and I declined,” Botha says.

”I said to him, no I can’t co-operate in that sense because I fundamentally differ in the way you are dealing with matters and the way I’m dealing with matters.”

He says he repeatedly warned Mandela against Communism.

”I never liked his policies and he knows it.”

Botha does not give a date for the exchange, but he would presumably place it some time after he was ousted from the presidency by a reformist FW de Klerk in 1989. He had been premier and head of the NP since 1978.

Asked by Saunders what South Africa would have looked like had black majority rule come in 1948, the year in which the NP came to power, or the 1960s, when most of Africa was decolonised, he replies: ”I think by this time we would have been in the drain already.”

”Because the forces of evil gradually took over in Africa, took over in Mocambique, took over in Angola, took over in Rhodesia.

”And the pressure against South Africa on the east front and the west front, that pressure was continually growing. And the result was the propaganda among the black people, trying to convince them that everything was rosy in the garden for them if they just supported the idea of one-man, one-vote.

”That was a miserable situation we found ourselves in.”

Asked whether whites had during the apartheid era regarded black people as inferior or even subhuman, he says this was propaganda made by ”certain parts” of the media and by the United Nations.

”I never looked at the people in the sense of inferior because many black people, repeat many black people, and coloureds, co-operated positively with government policies.

”We wouldn’t have taken them into the industrial development areas if they were inferior.”

Questioned by Saunders on why, if that was the case, black people were forced to eat in separate restaurants, subjected to job reservation and denied the vote, he says the NP did not originate ”that part of the so-called apartheid policy”.

”This very policy started in Lord Milner’s time and in the time of the British governors of the Eastern Province and Natal. So it’s a very, very old policy that existed. We didn’t invite [initiate] it.”

”We were happy to perpetuate it,” says Saunders. ”We were actually racists at heart at that stage as well.”

”Yes. Some of our people were, and some of them still are,” replies Botha. – Sapa

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Ben Maclennan
Guest Author

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