Former president of South Africa, FW de Klerk, dies at age of 85 | World News

FW de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president, has died at the age of 85.

“Former President FW de Klerk died peacefully at his home in Fresnaye earlier this morning following his struggle against mesothelioma cancer,” a statement from his foundation said.

He was diagnosed in March with the disease, which affects the tissue lining the lungs.

FILE- South African Deputy President F.W. de Klerk, right, and South African President Nelson Mandela pose with their Nobel Peace Prize Gold Medal and Diploma, in Oslo, Dec. 10, 1993. F.W. de Klerk, who oversaw end of South Africa's country’s white minority rule, has died at 85 it was announced Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. (Jon Eeg/Pool photo via AP, File)
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FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize

Mr de Klerk oversaw the end of South Africa’s white minority rule as the country’s last apartheid president.

While he was head of state from 1989 and 1994, he and his government dismantled the apartheid system of institutionalised racial segregation and introduced voting rights for black people.

In 1990 he announced he was releasing anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela from prison after 27 years, in a speech that made history.

Mr de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mr Mandela in 1993, but his role in the transition to democracy remains a source of controversy.

Many blamed him for violence against black people and anti-apartheid campaigners during his reign, while some white people accused him of betraying them in his efforts to end apartheid.

After multi-party elections were held in 1994, Mr Mandela won the presidency and Mr de Klerk became one of two deputy presidents in a “National Unity Government”.

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Mr de Klerk lost the 1994 election to Mr Mandela

Mr de Klerk had kept the decision to release Mr Mandela a closely-guarded secret, fearing a leak and backlash from right-wing whites.

Even his wife did not know about the plan.

When Mr de Klerk celebrated his 70th birthday in 2006, Mr Mandela praised his predecessor for taking that plunge into the political unknown.

Nobel Peace Laureate Nelson Mandela is helped out of his car as he arrives for the 70th birthday celebrations of fellow Nobel Peace Laureate FW de Klerk (R) in Cape Town, March 17, 2006. De Klerk turns 70 on March 18. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
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Mr Mandela attended Mr de Klerk’s 70th birthday celebrations

“You have shown courage that few have done in similar circumstances,” he said.

Mr Mandela wrote in his autobiography that nothing in Mr de Klerk’s past “seemed to hint at the spirit of reform”.

After beginning his parliamentary career in 1972, Mr de Klerk had spent years as a minister overseeing a schooling system that spent 10 times more on white children than black children.

His negotiations with Mr Mandela on a peaceful transition were held amid mounting political violence, with critics saying Mr de Klerk was too cautious in tackling right-wing security forces suspected of instigating conflict.

He retired from active politics in 1997 and later apologised for the consequences of apartheid.

“History has shown that as far as the policy of apartheid was concerned, our former leaders were deeply mistaken in the
course upon which they embarked,” he said.




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