01 November 2006

Those Who Knew Them: PW Botha 1916-2006

President Botha always saw the world in black and whiteAnother in our occasional series of tributes to the recently deceased from those who knew them best. Today's tribute to the apartheid-era South African leader comes from his former Minister for Cattle-Prod Procurement Prik van der Merwe

Aw man, PW, what a guy! What a President! "Die Groot Krokodil" ("The Big Crocodile"), we used to call him: well, he always had that big, cunning smile on him ... and that happy-go-lucky way he'd try to bite your head off if you got on his nerves; I've still got the marks on me to this day - one canine and two incisors. Still, he was always good to me. The moment he became President in '78 he picked me out straight away: "What we need now is some knuckle-dragging Prik to do our dirty work for us", he said - and there I was! Straight away, man!

Those were happy days for me, man, happy days! Aw, but busy?! You should have seen my office! Queues of police chiefs and death squad operatives half a mile long outside my door every morning: "Prik, I need another 500 cattle-prods", "Prik, I need more electrodes", "Prik, where's those hoods and shackles you promised me last week?" Luckily PW was always happy just to leave me to get on with my work without any interference. You know he even went so far as to deny that I ever existed?! Now there's a boss, man!

You know, people called PW a racist but that's rubbish, man. PW was completely colour blind - I remember I once came back from a trip to Israel (I was involved in the negotiations over the nuclear bombs entirely peaceful pest eradication technology) with a bit of a tan and PW simply couldn't see me for almost a week! Not on you life, man, PW wasn't racist, he simply believed that God meant black people and white people should live in different places, and if black people happened to live in the places where the white people wanted to live - like Africa - they should be forced to make way for them with cattle prods and rifles ... and then forced to do the most menial tasks while the whites live in luxury. I for one have never been able to see the flaw in that argument.

No, PW was one of the greats if you ask me. I'll never, ever forget him. He's the finest boss I ever had ... well, at least until I got that "Special Operations" work from Mr Cheney.