JOHANNESBURG — Roelof "Pik" Botha, the last foreign minister of South Africa's apartheid era and a contradictory figure who staunchly defended white minority rule but recognized that change was inevitable, died on Friday at age 86.

Botha died in "the early hours of the morning" at his home after an illness, his son told South Africa's eNCA news outlet.

Internationally, Botha was the most visible representative of apartheid at the height of protests and sanctions against the racist rule that ended with Nelson Mandela's election as the first black president in 1994.

Often willing to passionately debate critics, the longtime foreign minister was vilified around the world while drawing the ire of his own boss, President P.W. Botha, when he said in 1986 that South Africa might one day have a black leader.

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