PW Botha, apartheid leader, dead at 90

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

P.W. Botha, the hardliner who led apartheid-era South Africa for much of the 1980s, died yesterday at the age of 90.

Known as the "Great Crocodile", Botha defied an international effort to force South Africa to give up white minority rule and also free African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela from prison.

Botha led the country first as Prime Minister, then as President, from 1978 until 1989 when a stroke forced him from office.

He presided over a State of Emergency in an attempt to suppress the growing resistance movement to give South Africa's black majority the vote but also introduced some reforms in an attempt to satisfy critics.

"While to many Mr Botha will remain a symbol of apartheid, we also remember him for the steps he took to pave the way towards the eventual peacefully negotiated settlement in our country," said Mandela in a statement.