South Africa’s Last Apartheid President F.W. de Klerk Dead

Story Highlights
  • South Africa's last white president Frederik Willem (FW) de Klerk died.
  • De Klerk headed South Africa's white minority government until 1994.
  • He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in March.

Johannesburg: F.W. de Klerk, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela and oversaw the end of South Africa’s white minority rule as the country’s last apartheid president, has died at the age of 85. Mr De Klerk died on Thursday at his home in the Fresnaye neighbourhood of Cape Town after a battle with cancer, according to a spokesman for the F.W. de Klerk Foundation. Mr. de Klerk was the one who announced Mandela’s release from jail after 27 years in a speech to South Africa’s parliament on February 2nd, 1990. The announcement electrified a country that had been ridiculed and sanctioned by much of the world for decades for its horrific apartheid-era racial discrimination regime.

Frederik Willem de Klerk was born in Johannesburg on March 18, 1936, to a family of Afrikaner politicians. Jan, his father, was a cabinet minister. He attended Potchefstroom University, which was noted for its conservatism, and apartheid had already taken root by the time he finished his legal degree. In 1972, he gained a safe parliamentary seat for the ruling National Party after 11 years as a lawyer. He rose to the top of his party after a series of ministerial roles, the last of which was in education. He was a fervent believer in apartheid and its legal architecture at the time, which included segregated residential zones, schools, and institutions for various races.

De Klerk, 85, served as the president of South Africa’s white minority administration from 1994 to 1994. In March, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs’ lining tissue. “He is survived by his wife Elita, his children Jan and Susan, and his grandkids,” according to the foundation, which added that the family would make a funeral announcement in due time.

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