Former South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha has rounded on David Cameron for criticising Margaret Thatcher's policy towards South Africa.
"She did more to change apartheid than the Labour Party or any other party in Britain... In private conversations, as well as in letters exchanged between herself and PW Botha (then prime minister of South Africa), she consistently made it clear to us that she was firmly opposed to apartheid and any form of racial discrimination," he said. ..She consistently appealed to us to release Mr Mandela... When you spoke within the old National Party (NP) ranks, United Nations resolutions and the hostility shown by the Soviet Union and others had no impact. But when you said, 'I must warn you, this is what President Reagan told me, this is what Mrs Thatcher told me, these are people who are well disposed towards us and if they say this we've got to change,' I could use their views to persuade the conservative sections within the NP to accept change."
Before the Leftist readers on this blog react in the way I might expect them to, they should bear in mind the final sentence of the story. "Mr Botha said he did agree with Mr Cameron's assessment of Mr Mandela as "one of the greatest men alive".
I have to say that I think Botha is bang on the money. As I recall it, he was one of the more liberal members of the South African regime who was instrumental in helping PW Botha with the transition from Apartheid to democracy, so let's not have any knee-jerk reactions please.
I have no great problem with David Cameron saying he thinks Margaret Thatcher was wrong on South Africa. It's just that I happen to disagree with him. That's not to say I believe she was right on everything. I don't. What this episode demonstrates is a danger for the Cameron leadership.
In a quest to appear different and to build a New Model Conservative Party it is tempting to junk the past. But by highlighting only the areas which a past Conservative Government might have got wrong, it almost encourages people to forget that very good things, the triumphs, the successes of the very same government. It is a very difficult balance to get right. It would be nice, from time to time, to hear a little bit more about what Margaret Thatcher got right, while making the point that that was then and this is now and we face entirely different electoral, economic and social circumstances in which we have to build a new policy platform.
Read the full article on Pik Botha in the Sunday Telegraph HERE.