IMG_0415

Memories of Christmas Eve with Pik Botha

Fredo woke up this morning to learn of the passing of Pik Botha. As journalist Fredo followed the career of this colourful man very closely and also had some interviews with him.

Pik Botha, as South African Foreign Minister, made a name as an energetic and convincing debater, and shrewd negotiator. He lasted throughout the 70’s, the very difficult 1980’s and into the early 90’s when South Africa moved to a new democracy. Then he was Minister of Energy Affairs in President Mandela’s first the unity government. He left the cabinet in 1996 when FW de Klerk’s National Party withdrew from the unity government and became opposition to the ANC government. Pik Botha, in 2000, did the almost unthinkable by becoming a member of the ANC. In general terms he is remembered as highly popular South African who had friends in all political parties and who remained passionate about the need to build a strong democracy.

He suffered at the hands of PW Botha, who in the 1980’s would make one promise after the other to move towards a negotiated settlement, just to abandon these plans at the last moment. At that stage Pik had been told what was to come and the moderate section of the government, with Botha’s consent, had asked him to inform foreign countries and create the environment for progress in the country. Pik’s reputation and international contacts would be seriously hurt by Botha’s actions and he would then have to embark on yet another round of international travel and diplomacy to heal the damaged relationships. He endured long after Botha was gone and made a huge contribution to bring about peace and independence in Namibia and assist with the establishment of the South African constitution which was adopted in 1996.

In the late 1970’s Pik had to deal with the fall-out of world opinion in the aftermath of the 1976 student riots and the mayhem that followed afterwards all over South Africa. He also had to preside over the difficult negotiations to end the Bush War in Namibia, where South African forces battled Cuban and Swapo forces in what was then Northern South West Africa, as well as in Southern Angola.

One felt sorry for him. The more he promised the world that the South African government was moving forward to initiate change, the more PW Botha would pull the rug from underneath him. It is therefore not surprising that Pik Botha was an enthusiastic participant when FW de Klerk finally ousted PW and started with the reforms that would see the unbanning of the ANC, the freeing of Nelson Mandela and the establishment of the new democracy.

In Fredo’s Book – A Citizen of Africa – he recalls a special meeting with Pik Botha on one Christmas Eve in 1979. During the last three years of his media career Fredo often covered TV News when the regular teams were on holiday or off-duty. In December the team would gather stories to last during what was called the ‘cucumber’ holiday season when news was normally scarce, but one still had to feed the hungry tv and radio monsters with information and programmes. We recorded the programmes and they were broadcasted when there was space.

I was asked to interview Pik Botha late afternoon on Christmas Eve on progress with the Namibian negotiations which would lead to Namibian independence. The encounter lasted some hours, interrupted by telephone calls but which ended with a special time with Pik after the interview, over one of his best bottles of red wine straight from the stock at his official residence – when he was relaxed and ready to leave on his Christmas holiday. The stories which emerged were memorable and we were sitting in the company of this warm and human character who probably never had much time to speak in this way with journalists. The stories remained there – the moment was too special to repeat the stories later.

One thing we can reveal though. The enduring memory was when Pik got dressed out of his safari suit into a nice crispy white shirt, tie and suite jacket, but was still wearing his sandals and safari shorts when he presented himself for the interview. He instructed Robbie Klarenbeek, cameraman, to film him from the waste upwards. Soon afterwards he disappeared upstairs to remove the offending jacket, tie and shirt. He settled down with us and then the real encounter started. The full story is in the book.

We, along with Evita Bezuidenhout, who also had a special relationship with Pik and who once recalled their bushveld braais with great humour, will miss this special person. In his time he was one of the greatest sons of this country – whether you agreed with his political orientation or not. He lived life to the full and if he had a chance he would somewhere now be chatting with Madiba – who will no doudt greet him with: “Ah Pik, its so nice to see you again.”

 

126 Prime Seedless

Muddling through thousands of photographs

Fredo and Janey have now been working for more than a year of our book on South African table grapes which was commissioned by SATI, the SA Table grape industry organisation. With the manuscript completed, Fredo is now driving Janey crazy, wading through thousands and thousands of photographs which have been accumulated through the years.
Read More

IMG_0044

Old Jan Huppelbeen and a few quiet smokes to calm the nerves

Old Jan Huppelbeen visited us the other night, just when the first hot day of the summer arrived. Stirred by the sudden warmth after a cold winter, a bit of national pride over the Springbok’s win in New Zealand, as well as the news that emerged from the Constitutional Court recently, Old Jan seemed to
Read More

Louis Kriel

South African and world fruit trade mourns passing of Louis Kriel

Yesterday Fredo wrote a story for the international fresh produce trade about the passing of a truly great fruit industry man. Louis Kriel, at the age of 78, has finally left us and the space which he occupied for decades in our lives is suddenly extremely empty. Fredo has worked with and known Louis Kriel for
Read More

IMG_0406

The Valley of the French – from a fruit point of view

For Fredo the valley around Franschoek, and lower down into the Groot Drakenstein, also have had special significance because these have always been outstanding fruit and wine growing areas. This valley has been the place where the modern day South African fruit industry started. In the area around Simondium Cecil john Rhodes, with the help
Read More

IMG_0454

Why do people visit Franschhoek?

During our stay in Franschhoek we kept asking ourselves why people are streaming to Franschhoek to visit the town and the Valley. For us the French legacy and the beautiful environment have always been the outstanding features. The fact is that Franschhoek and its Valley has become the hotspot in South Africa. For the traditionalists
Read More

IMG_0409

Mixed feelings as we visit Franschhoek again

Oh what it is like to wake up on a farm again and hear the cocks crowing from five to announce the new day. Here you do not need an alarm clock and this is the way things have been done for decades, if not centuries. We are in Franschhoek again and we are staying
Read More

IMG_0365

A special drive to Cape Town for Fredo and Janey

This drive today to Cape Town was special – because somewhere along the road we turned off the main road to explore the foothills of the Hex River Mountains. We stopped at Rooiberg Cellar near Robertson, which is a favourite for us on our travels. They bake unbelievable breads every day and whether it is
Read More

IMG_0154

Cyril throws the cats amongst the pigeons

South African farmers, and in fact the whole community in South Africa, woke up to a new political shock yesterday. We all knew that the ANC was having one of its retreats to discuss all matters election and political. However, we never thought that before going to bed the President who has to a large
Read More

Vineyard scenes at Vredenhof

A milestone for Fredo and Janey – the story of South African table grapes is almost done

Tuesday 30 July was a great day for Fredo and Janey. We finished the last chapter of our book on South African table grapes – a project that kept us on the run since the beginning of July last year and which took us through the libraries of the Cape and table grape regions. Everywhere
Read More