South Africa’s former President de Klerk is dead

Status: 11.11.2021 12:43 p.m.

South Africa’s former President de Klerk initiated the abolition of the apartheid regime with a reform course – he later received the Nobel Peace Prize together with Nelson Mandela. Now he died at the age of 85.

South Africa’s former President Frederik Willem de Klerk is dead. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate died of cancer at the age of 85, according to the FW de Klerk Foundation. He peacefully succumbed to the fight against the disease in his home in Cape Town on Thursday morning.

De Klerk was president of the last apartheid government in South Africa from 1989. He was the son of a minister and the nephew of a prime minister, both of whom helped build the racist system. At the beginning of his term of office, however, the Klerk initiated the abolition of the apartheid regime with a radical reform course. He campaigned for Nelson Mandela to be released from prison and announced the end of segregation in February 1990. Years later, he received death threats from white compatriots for this.

Nobel Prize together with Nelson Mandela

De Klerk’s name was inextricably linked with Mandela’s. South Africa was internationally isolated in the 1980s because of the systematic separation of blacks and whites. De Klerk was considered a man of peaceful transition with Mandela. In October 1993 both men were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their will to reconcile and for “their personal integrity and great political courage”.

Similar to Mandela, however, de Klerk also later reassessed his historical merits. He declared several times and many years later that not all aspects of apartheid were morally reprehensible.

After 1994 rapid loss of influence

In the first democratic elections in 1994, Mandela’s ANC won, as expected, a majority with 62 percent of the vote, de Klerks NP got a good 20 percent of the vote. In the unity government under Mandela, de Klerk became one of two vice-presidents, but quickly lost influence.

In the years after the fall of apartheid, de Klerk lived in Cape Town, traveled around the world to give lectures and campaigned for the rule of law and good governance with his foundation. He hardly spoke politically. De Klerk left behind his wife Elita, his children Jan and Susan and several grandchildren.

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