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President Admitted To Hospital After Stroke

January 18, 1989

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) _ President P.W. Botha suffered a mild stroke today and was admitted to a military hospital. His office said he was ″clear-minded″ and might appoint a temporary replacement.

Officials said Botha, who turned 73 last week, was in stable condition at No. 2 Military Hospital in the Cape Town suburb of Wynberg. His office said no further medical statements would be issued for the time being unless the president’s condition worsened.

Botha has for the most part enjoyed excellent health since he took charge of South Africa’s white-controlled government as prime minister in 1978. Under a new constitution, he became president in 1984.

The modern, five-story hospital in Wynberg, part of a military base, is considered one of the best in southern Africa. Botha laid the cornerstone for the main building in 1976, when he was defense minister.

The president’s wife for 46 years, Elize, and some of their five children came to the hospital to be with her husband, the state radio said.

The state-run South African Broadcasting Corp. said Botha suffered the stroke early in the morning while at his home.

Botha’s office said the president remained in charge of the country ″along with the rest of the Cabinet.″ Botha’s staff initially said the Cabinet would meet to consider naming an acting president, but later his office said Botha was ″quite clear-minded″ and was likely to make the appointment himself on Thursday.

According to South Africa’s Constitution, the president can appoint a Cabinet minister to fill in for him temporarily. If the president is incapacitated, the Cabinet can elect one of its members as acting president.

Caspar Venter, a Bureau for Information official, said any of several senior Cabinet ministers could be designated to fill in for the president in the event of his absence from the country or his incapacitation.

Botha has refused to comment about when he might step down from the presidency. There has been intense speculation, but no consensus, about which Cabinet member might be selected by the National Party as Botha’s successor.

Among those mentioned as possible successors are Foreign Affairs Minister Pik Botha, who is not related to the president; National Education Minister F.W. de Klerk; Constitutional Development Minister Chris Heunis; and Defense Minister Magnus Malan.

During his years in power, Botha has maintained the National Party’s political dominance despite harsh criticism both from the anti-apartheid movement and from extreme-right whites.

He has presided over the first significant racial reforms undertaken during the National Party’s 40-year rule, such as legalization of interracial marriages and abolition of pass laws, which restricted blacks’ movements.

But he has refused to negotiate with the African National Congress, the main guerrilla movement fighting the government, or to release the ANC’s jailed leader, Nelson Mandela.

Botha has refused to discuss the possibility of a one-person, one-vote system in South Africa, where the 5 million whites control the government and economy while the 26 million blacks have no vote in national affairs.

The Wynberg hospital is about a mile from the Constantiaberg Clinic, where Mandela spent several weeks recuperating from tuberculosis last year before being transferred to a staff home at a prison farm in the town of Paarl.

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