Botha a Stubborn Defence Minister Who Stuck to His Guns


By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek The death of former Prime Minister and later South Africa’s State President, Pieter Willem (P.W.) Botha, has been met with mixed feelings in Namibia. The former Head of State did not only make a huge impact on South African politics, but also on the history, politics and lives of many Namibians. Botha visited Namibia on numerous occasions. New Era spoke to a few politicians and a political analyst on the impact Botha had made on the history of Namibia. Namibia’s political analyst, Dr Joseph Diescho, described Botha as a hardline white supremacist who had enormous inability to change. “Botha simply could not appreciate the fact that things were changing, and in the end everything came too fast for him.” The South African based analyst said the biggest impact he had made on Namibia was the establishment of a strong South African military base in Namibia. “Botha developed the South African Defence Force and, because he was a fighter, he instilled the fighting spirit in many white South Africans.” Dr Diescho added that Botha’s desire to build a strong military base in Namibia also led to the huge infrastructure development especially the roads in the country. Diescho noted that Botha’s biggest weakness was his inability to change, and he was caught by surprise when his own Cabinet declared no in faith in him. “The move came as a shock to Botha, and he never really recovered from it and died a bitter man.” Veteran politician, Jannie de Wet, a representative of South-West Africa at the time, who described Botha as a personal friend whom he admired a lot, met him more than 40 years ago at a meeting in South Africa, when Botha was still a deputy minister in the South African government led by Hendrik Verwoed. He said since then they had become closer especially when he (De Wet) was based in the northern part of Namibia as the Commissioner-General and Botha was the Minister of Defence. “Botha frequented the north more as the liberation struggle intensified, and we had many meetings,” said De Wet. De Wet described Botha as a strong-minded and honest person who could become very aggressive if things were not done his way. “With Botha, you will always knew where you stood, because he would support you all the way if you were together, and would fight you more vigorously if you differed.” The former MP further noted that, despite being a strong man, Botha finally cracked under international pressure, which included sanctions, Namibia attaining its independence, and then when South Africa became a democratic state. “I will remember Botha as a good friend whom I admired, and I still have good memories of him when I visited him two years ago in Cape Town.” Former Prime Minister Hage Geingob described Botha as a stubborn politician who stuck to his guns. He said the former South African president stood by his principles until he died, and never reconciled. “Botha even refused to confess to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and was not a man who wanted reconciliation.” Geingob, who never met Botha in person, said the famous statement by Botha – ‘adapt or die’ – was very significant as it marked the beginning of an era. The Swapo MP said Botha’s stubbornness also contributed to him losing the South African presidency. “Botha was stuck in the past and he was overtaken by events which led to a palace coup in the National Party which gave rise to F.W. de Klerk.” Geingob added that Botha’s stubbornness also led to many lives being lost on both sides of the conflict. “Botha believed apartheid was a good policy, and he was really a conservative politician.” The MP, however, said Africans do not attack anybody when they die, and people should view this as the end of an era and look forward to a better future. DTA of Namibia MP Johan de Waal said he met the late president during the interim government and shook hands with him in parliament. De Waal noted, however, that at the time, he was still a junior government official and never had the opportunity to attend a meeting with the late Botha. P.W. Botha died of natural causes at his home on Tuesday night. He was 90.