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Elize Botha, wife of former South African president, dead at 75

June 7, 1997

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) _ Elize Botha, the wife of former South African President P.W. Botha, has died at the family’s home on the south coast. She was 75.

Mrs. Botha died of a heart attack Friday night, her son-in-law, Dr. Jan Maritz, said today. She suffered an aneurysm in 1978 but had been in good health since then, he said.

Mrs. Botha’s body was discovered by her husband, Maritz said. The couple had been married 54 years and the 81-year-old former president was ``shaken″ by his wife’s death, he said.

``He is battling to get over it,″ he said. ``He is emotionally upset.″

President Nelson Mandela phoned Botha to express his condolences, presidential aide Parks Mankahlana said. He said Mrs. Botha played an important role in setting up a 1995 luncheon attended by Mandela and widows of former apartheid-era leaders.

The luncheon was hailed as a symbol of reconciliation in South Africa after a history of bitter racial division.

``For that reason. President Mandela will always remember Mrs. Botha as one of those who had a fair share in promoting nation-building and reconciliation in South Africa,″ Mankahlana said.

Botha was head of state for 11 years, first as prime minister and then as state president until he suffered a stroke in 1989 and was replaced as National Party leader and state president by F.W. de Klerk.

Under Botha’s leadership, South Africa introduced minor reforms to the apartheid system of white minority rule, creating relatively powerless chambers of Parliament for the mixed-race and Indian populations.

The government still refused to allow the black majority to vote and tried to force blacks to live in impoverished tribal homelands while denying them South African citizenship.

In 1994, the nation held its first all-race elections, which ended apartheid and resulted in Mandela becoming president.

Besides her husband, Mrs. Botha is survived by three daughters and two sons. Funeral services were scheduled for Friday in the south coast city of George.

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