Ex-envoy linked to mixed-race woman

January 18, 1993|By Jerelyn Eddings | Jerelyn Eddings,Johannesburg Bureau

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- In the latest case of love across the color line, a former South African ambassador to the United States has been romantically linked to his "colored" secretary.

Pictures of Piet Koornhof, 67, a former Cabinet minister and ambassador, were splashed across two pages of the Johannesburg Sunday Times under the headline "The Piet Koornhof Party Album."

The pictures showed the South African politician, who administered apartheid laws throughout most of his long career, dancing with and embracing 23-year-old Marcelle Adams, a young woman classified under the apartheid system as colored, or racially mixed.

The affair is the most recent in a string of highly publicized interracial liaisons involving prominent South Africans. It follows a controversial romance between President F. W. de Klerk's son Willem and Erica Adams, a colored woman he met at college. The two were engaged to be married, but the relationship ended last year.

It also comes after the much-talked-about 1991 marriage of colored politician Allan Boesak to Elna Botha, niece of Stoffel Botha, who as minister of home affairs once withdrew Mr. Boesak's passport and forbade him to travel outside South Africa.

There is also a touch of irony in Mr. Koornhof's relationship with a colored woman. In the 1970s, as minister of cooperation and development, which handled nonwhite affairs, Mr. Koornhof was responsible for the forced removals that shattered many black and colored communities to make way for all-white residential areas.

Mr. Koornhof told the Sunday Times he hired Miss Adams as his secretary several months ago to help her, but the newspaper quoted one of her friends as saying she had no secretarial skills.

According to the newspaper, the two were seen on several occasions dancing at a Cape Town night spot. It also said some of the pictures of the couple were taken at a Christmas party at Mr. Koornhof's holiday home outside Cape Town.

Mr. Koornhof, reached for comment by the Sunday Times, said, "I can swear before God that there is nothing ugly in our relationship."

Last week, Lulu Koornhof filed for divorce after 41 years of marriage to Mr. Koornhof, who retired from politics in 1991 after returning home from Washington. She said she has withdrawn the application for divorce, however. She said she was surprised to learn about the affair between her husband and his secretary.

"I hear that he has been seen with Miss Adams. I don't know why he does it. Is the man stupid or what?" she was quoted as saying.

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