Melanie Verwoerd: Pik Botha, Evita Bezuidenhout and a hospital visit from Madiba

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“Is dit Melanie Verwoerd?” a voice on the other side of the phone asked. I immediately recognised the deep, nosy tone. It was, after all, the voice that throughout my youth filled our TV screens, defending the government’s policies while insisting that foreign governments were mistaken in their opposition to apartheid.

For a moment, I panicked. “How do I address him?” I wondered. My Afrikaner upbringing kicked in and it felt hopelessly too familiar to call him “Pik”. Then again, “Oom Pik” didn’t feel right either.

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