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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 November 2006, 06:00 GMT
Apartheid-era SA president dies
PW Botha
Mr Botha was known by Afrikaners as the Great Crocodile
Former South African President PW Botha has died at his home in the Cape at the age of 90 after 17 years in retirement.

He led white minority rule in 1978-89 - during the height of the anti-apartheid struggle. He subsequently said he had no regrets about the way he governed.

The ruling African National Congress, which was outlawed under Mr Botha, was among the first to offer condolences.

Mr Botha was succeeded by the country's last white President FW de Klerk who led South Africa to multi-racial polls.

Mr Botha - known by Afrikaners as the Great Crocodile - died peacefully, said a member of his security staff, Frikkie Lucas.

He had recently been admitted to hospital for a routine check-up and was then discharged.

There has been a muted response in South Africa to the death of the former president, the BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says.

It is not the main story in some local morning newspapers, our correspondent says.

Mr Botha was regarded as a relic and someone stuck in a bit of a time warp, he adds.

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The African National Congress issued a brief statement saying it wished the Botha family "strength and comfort at this difficult time".

As a former president, Mr Botha will be given a state funeral, as stipulated in the South African constitution.

'No regrets'

During his rule, Mr Botha defied international criticism and refused to release Nelson Mandela, the country's most famous political prisoner.

In 1989, Mr Mandela held talks with Botha.

Not only will we survive [sanctions], we will emerge stronger on the other side
PW Botha after international sanctions imposed on SA

Mr Mandela, who was freed in 1990, later recalled going into the meeting with Mr Botha thinking that he would see "the very model of the old-fashioned, stiff-necked, stubborn Afrikaner who did not so much discuss matters with black leaders as dictate to them".

But he said he found Mr Botha holding out his hand and smiling broadly "and in fact, from that very first moment, he completely disarmed me". However, Mr Botha refused to free Mr Mandela and other prisoners.

In the 1990s, Mr Botha was summoned to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a panel set up by then President Mandela's government to probe abuses.

The panel concluded in 1998 that Mr Botha was guilty of gross human rights violations.

Thousands were detained without trial during his presidency, while others were tortured and killed. However, he refused to apologise for apartheid.

Quiet life

Although some cosmetic reforms were introduced in 1983, allowing the Asian and mixed-race communities into parliament, Mr Botha made no headway in terms of advancing political freedom.

He imposed a state emergency in 1986 after South Africa's black majority did not accept his reforms.

Mr Botha failed to satisfy those on either side of the country's racial divide - or international opinion - and eventually resigned after a power struggle within his cabinet.

He led a quiet life with his second wife, Barbara, in the seaside village of Wilderness, about 350km (220 miles) east of Cape Town, for almost two decades.

In a interview to mark his 90th birthday, he suggested that he had no regrets about the way he ran the country.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A look at the life of PW Botha



SEE ALSO
Obituary: PW Botha
31 Oct 06 |  Africa
PW Botha: Reaction in quotes
01 Nov 06 |  Africa
PW Botha implicated in murders
15 Jul 99 |  Africa
P W Botha: The 'Great Crocodile'
30 Oct 98 |  Truth and Reconciliation
Country profile: South Africa
20 Sep 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: South Africa
20 Sep 06 |  Country profiles



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