South Africa's old president follows Mandela's love lines

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The Independent Online
White or black, racist or freedom fighter: what is the secret of the ageing South African politician?

A year ago President Nelson Mandela, 79, and Mozambique's Graca Machel, 28 years his junior, confirmed breathless rumours of romance by canoodling during a presidential trip to Europe.

Now the hero's one-time arch-enemy, the former state president PW Botha, 81, is said to be in love with Renette Naude, a widow almost half his age. While Paris was the setting for the outing of Mr Mandela and Ms Machel, a town called Wilderness - to which the bitter PW retreated in 1989 after being knifed by his cabinet - is apparently the backdrop for this very Afrikaner romance.

Yesterday Mr Botha denied he planned to marry Ms Naude, the vivacious blonde owner of an upmarket guest house. But then he also claims he never realised his security police murdered and maimed to keep him in power. "At the moment I am a lonesome warrior," growled the Groot Krokodil (Great Crocodile), as he is affectionately known. But Mr Botha was fulsome in his praise of Ms Naude and while the lady herself denied marriage was imminent she did not rule it out later.

If the couple do indeed have plans to marry their coyness is understandable. Elize, Mr Botha's wife of 54 years, only died in June. Yesterday the old joke about Afrikaner funerals was doing the rounds: however grief-stricken the widower, he always takes time to eye up the mourners.

Somehow its easier to imagine President Mandela, the world's most popular politician, as a romantic hero than the finger-wagging, stalk-eyed PW Botha.

But each to their own. President Mandela picked a woman with impeccable revolutionary credentials; Ms Naude is said to be a devout member of the local Afrikaner church.

And as Mr Botha pointed out yesterday: "The Bible says it is not good to be alone."

Mary Braid - Johannesburg

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