Dave Steward, the spokesperson for the FW de Klerk Foundation confirmed his death to South African News24 today. “The former president died earlier this morning at his home in Fresnaye after his struggle against cancer. He was 85-years-old. He is survived by his wife Elita, two children Susan and Jan, and his grandchildren.”
De Klerk was the head of South Africa from September 1989 until May 1994. He became one of the country’s two deputy presidents following the first multi-racial, democratic election held in April 1994.
He entered Parliament in 1972, having trained as a lawyer and winning his seat in Vereeniging (formerly in Southern Transvaal).
He succeeded PW Botha as the leader of the National Party in February 1989 after Botha suffered a stroke and consequently resigned from the party. De Klerk became president seven months later after Botha quit the post.
Steps towards change
On 2 February 1990, one year after taking over as the National Party leader, De Klerk delivered a speech to Parliament whereby he announced that he was ending the ban on the ANC, and other liberation movements. He also announced that he was releasing Nelson Mandela unconditionally.
His reforms included the unbanning of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and other anti-apartheid organisations. It also included the release of political prisoners, including Mandela, and the end of the state of emergency and a moratorium on the death penalty.
According to his foundation, De Klerk’s a speech marked the “official end of segregation policies and the official start of the negotiations” ultimately put in motion the steps towards ending the apartheid system and ushering in a multi-party system, thereby paving the way for South Africa’s first democratic election under universal suffrage.
While he is credited with having set in motion change in South Africa, he is considered to be a man of contradictions. His efforts to end apartheid – a system that destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of South Africans – allowed many apartheid chefs to make their apologies and then walk away.
A devout Christian, he told the LA Times in 1992 that apartheid was not intentionally evil. “Yes, we have made mistakes. Yes, we have often sinned and we don’t deny this…But that we were evil, malignant and mean–to that we say ‘no.’”
Despite such remarks, he, along with Nelson Mandela ‘Madiba’ were both given the Nobel prize along,
We will be updating this as more news comes in
Understand Africa's tomorrow... today
We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.View subscription options