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S. Africa’s Van der Byl Dies at 76

November 17, 1999

FAIRFIELD, South Africa (AP) _ Pieter van der Byl, a government minister in white-ruled Rhodesia who signed an independence declaration to block efforts to steer the country to nonracial rule, has died. He was 76.

Van der Byl died Monday of a stroke on his farm east of Cape Town, three months after a heart operation, said his secretary, Corieta van Zyl.

After growing up in South Africa, Van der Byl joined an elite British Army cavalry regiment, where he acquired patrician airs and a clipped British accent.

During World War II, he fought in Italy, and once told a television interviewer: ``Italy was a splendid country to conquer.″ After the war, he went to Rhodesia, where he joined Parliament in 1962.

In 1965 he signed Prime Minister Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence, an attempt to block efforts by Britain and the United Nations to foster nonracial rule in Rhodesia.

That triggered a civil war by black rebels, who ousted Smith’s government in 1981, installed a Marxist government and renamed the country Zimbabwe under black rule.

Earlier, as rebel strength grew, Van der Byl was asked by British journalists how Rhodesia’s embattled 287,000 whites would react when black guerrillas fought their way through to the capital.

``Well, we’ll shoot them,″ he said contemptuously.

In the interim, van der Byl served alternately as the country’s information, foreign and defense minister.

Van der Byl returned to South Africa in 1982, where his farm produced grain, sheep and cattle. But he traveled frequently to the new Zimbabwe to continue service in Parliament, until the black government kicked out white members in 1987.

He was married in 1979 to Princess Charlotte von Lichtenstein, a descendant of Austria’s Hapsburg emperors. They had three sons, Pieter Vincenz, 18; Valerian, 17; and Casimir, 9.

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