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An Idiot’s Guide to PW Botha

October 4, 2015

“We do not pretend like other Whites that we like Blacks. The fact that, Blacks look like human beings and act like human beings do not necessarily make them sensible human beings. Hedgehogs are not porcupines and lizards are not crocodiles simply because they look alike. If God wanted us to be equal to the Blacks, he would have created us all of a uniform colour and intellect. But he created us differently: Whites, Blacks, Yellow, Rulers and the ruled. Intellectually, we are superior to the Blacks; that has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt over the years,” said P.W. Botha in 1985.
The story of the NP’s most renowned thug, former Prime Minister or the President of white South Africa, or the Minister of Community Development and Coloured Affairs.

Pieter Willem Botha was born on 12 January 1916 on a farm in the Paul Roux district of the then Orange Free State. He attended high school in Bethlehem and later enrolled for a law degree (which he did not complete) at the University of the Orange Free State.
By the age of 20, he had become an organizer for the National Party of DF Malan. As the winds of the Second World War gathered, he joined the shadowy, pro-Nazi Ossewabrandwag organization (but this relationship ended in a spectacular fallout later).

After being appointed Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs in the cabinet of Hendrik Verwoerd in 1958, he became Minister of Community Development and Coloured Affairs in 1961.

He was in this portfolio when he oversaw the destruction of Cape Town’s mixed-race suburb of District Six.

On 11 February 1966, Botha, declared the district a white group area. In 1968, he sent in the bulldozers to start breaking down the houses. Over the next 14 years, more than 60,000 people were moved out of the area, and to the Cape Flats – to drab townships such as Manenberg, Hanover Park, Bonteheuwel and Lavender Hill.

The destruction of District Six and many other long-established coloured communities, such as Simon’s Town, Red Hill, Diep River, Steurhof and Claremont, throughout the Cape Peninsula, caused massive social upheaval in families, with many sons and daughters succumbing particularly to the lure of drugs and gangs.

But it was not only in the Western Cape that the National Party wreaked havoc. Other cabinet colleagues gave expression to the Verwoerdian vision of ‘no more black South Africans’, by forcibly driving African people off their land and into so-called ‘Bantu homelands’.

Estimates put the number of African people who were forcibly removed from their homes at more than 3.5-million.

Botha, meanwhile, continued his relentless drive to change the spatial makeup of the country’s big cities: other communities he helped to destroy included those in Cato Manor in Durban and Pageview in Johannesburg.

After a stint as Minister of Defence in the cabinet of Verwoerd’s successor, John Vorster, Botha became Prime Minister of South Africa in 1978 (after Vorster’s resignation in the wake of the so-called ‘Information Scandal’).

For reasons that have never been clear, Botha was initially seen as one of the more ‘enlightened’ (‘verligte’) members of the party, but as internal opposition to apartheid grew, his leadership, and the methods his government adopted to maintain power became decidedly more vicious in its response to, especially, black opposition to its policies.

This was particularly so after he became Executive State President in 1984.

A state of ‘executive lawlessness’

It was the era of the ‘securocrats’ – an era in which army generals, police hit squads, SA Defence Force assassination units, shady hitmen working from within shady organisations, and police torturers (operating from torture farms such as the infamous Vlakplaas) were given carte blanche to kill, maim, bomb, kidnap, torture and to make opponents of the government ‘disappear’ – and to destabilise countries that gave refuge to Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), the military wing of the African National Congress.

Looking back years later, law professor Laurence Boulle described the period of National Party rule – from Malan to De Klerk – in succinct terms: he said that this rule had been marked by ‘successive rampant executives casting aside rule of law imperatives as they … made their powers more intrusive and more discretionary, and less responsible and less accountable.

He especially singled out Botha for having taken these methods of governing to new levels of ‘executive lawlessness’.

But Botha and his supporters saw their actions as a ‘Total Strategy’ – a response to a ‘Total Onslaught’ by ‘Communist-backed’ opponents of his regime.

Employing the methods of torture and of how to eliminate opponents that had been perfected by the government of Israel, and by the rightwing juntas which at the time were running Argentina and Chile, Botha’s security forces spread terror throughout South Africa’s black communities.

In this respect, the 1980s were particularly devastating for many opponents of the apartheid regime. ….

Murdered freedom fighters, among whom were some of the country’s most talented individuals, were reduced to tabloid-type headlines in the national media. Among these were the so-called Pebco 3 (Sipho Hashe, Champion Galela and Quqawuli Godolozi), who were murdered in the killing fields of the Eastern Cape, in May 1985. Within six weeks, the ‘Cradock 4’ (Matthew Goniwe, Sparrow Mkhonto, Fort Calata and Sicelo Mhlawuli) were also assassinated and their bodies burnt and dumped.

Other well-known activists who were also murdered included Griffiths and Victoria Mxenge, and Fabian and Florence Ribeiro. And there were hundreds of others, less known, but as committed to the fight for a free South Africa, who were eliminated by the state’s roving bands of killers.

Moreover, in two states of emergency declared by Botha, thousands of people were detained without trial; many of them were brutally tortured. 

 This was the reality of living under the government of PW Botha.

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