Botha, P. W. (South Africa)

Reference work entry


P(ieter) W(illem) Botha served as South Africa’s prime minister from 1978–84. In Sept. 1984 he became the country’s first state president, a post he held until illness forced him from office in 1989. He was the last South African leader to remain committed to white supremacy, although his tenure did witness some reforms of the apartheid system.

Early Life

Botha was born in Paul Roux in the Orange Free State on 12 Jan. 1912. In 1932 he began a law course at the University of Orange Free State in Bloemfontein, but left without taking his degree to pursue a full-time career in politics. He worked in administration for the National Party from the age of 20, and in 1948 he was elected as a Nationalist member of parliament. By the late 1950s he had risen to the rank of deputy minister for the interior, and went on to hold successive ministerial positions in the departments of commercial development, public works, defence and coloured affairs. Following the resignation of Vorster...

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