Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Monday, June 1, 1998 Published at 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK

World: Africa

Botha back in court

Botha arrives at court for an earlier hearing

The trial of the former South African president, P.W. Botha, on charges of refusing to appear before the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, has resumed.

Mr Botha smiled and shook hands with people in the public gallery before taking his seat in court in the coastal town of George.

The BBC's Africa correspondent Jeremy Vine: 'Hardline Botha is standing firm'
The Commission has been hearing from individuals about their activities during the years of apartheid, but Mr Botha has described it as "a circus."

He offered to communicate with it in writing, but the commission demanded that he appear in person.

When he refused he was charged with being in contempt of the commission.

Human rights abuse allegations

In April, prosecutors asked for an adjournment after Paul van Zyl, Secretary of the Truth Commission, said Mr Botha should answer questions about his role as chairman of the State Security Council, which allegedly ordered the deaths of political opponents during the 1980s.

At the height of his rule 30,00 black opponents were jailed without charge.

Mr Botha maintains that he has nothing to apologise for, and will stand by the actions of his government.

If the former president is convicted of refusing to testify in person to the Truth Commission, the court may fine him up to $3,890 (£2,400).

The offence can also carry a maximum two-year prison term.

[ image: Tutu: in the witness box]
Tutu: in the witness box
But Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of the commission, has previously been reported as saying he does not intend to ask for a custodial sentence

Mr Tutu says it is because of his stature as a former president and his age. Mr Botha is 82.

A BBC correspondent says it is also because they do not want him to become a martyr for supporters of the old regime.

Mr Tutu is expected to take the witness stand against Mr Botha.

The Truth Commission is trying to help heal the wounds of apartheid through full disclosure of atrocities committed on both sides of the racial divide.

Archbishop Tutu has tried to assure Mr Botha that he did not intend to humiliate him.

Mr Tutu offered the ex-president a compromise deal in which he would give evidence in private, but Mr Botha refused.

The hearing is expected to last until Friday.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Relevant Stories

02 Jun 98†|†Africa
Botha trial adjourned

16 Apr 98†|†Africa
Profile - P W Botha, the 'Great Crocodile'

16 Apr 98†|†Africa
Botha 'linked to murder decisions'

Internet Links

Truth and Reconciliation Commission

African National Congress

Government of National Unity

National Party

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Dam builders charged in bribery scandal

Burundi camps 'too dire' to help

Sudan power struggle denied

Animal airlift planned for Congo

Spy allegations bug South Africa

Senate leader's dismissal 'a good omen'

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Zimbabwe constitution: Just a bit of paper?

South African gays take centre stage

Nigeria's ruling party's convention

UN to return to Burundi

Bissau military hold fire

Nile basin agreement on water cooperation

Congo Brazzaville defends peace initiative

African Media Watch

Liberia names new army chief