Published on , updated
He officially ended apartheid and freed icon Nelson Mandela: Frederik de Klerk, last white South African president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, died Thursday at 56 years.
“It is with the greatest sadness that the FW de Klerk Foundation announces the death of former President FW de Klerk peacefully this morning at his home in Fresnaye “, a suburb of Cape Town, its foundation announced in a statement.
He had said he suffered from mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the tissues surrounding the lungs in March, the very day of his 56 th birthday.
“He leaves behind his wife Elita, his children Jan and Susan, and his grandchildren”, adds the text written in English and in Afrikaans.
With the reputation of a great conservative, De Klerk succeeds President PW Botha in 1936, weakened by a heart attack.
February 2 1990, this Apparatchik of the National Party, against all expectations, declares before the Parliament: “The hour for negotiations has arrived”. He announces the unconditional release of ANC leader Nelson Mandela, in prison for 21 years, as well as the lifting of the ban on anti-apartheid parties.
“Spirit of reform”
This decision truly launched the transition process which led four years later to the organization of the first multiracial elections in the history of the country, won by Mandela.
The two men jointly receive the Nobel Prize in 1993, for “their efforts aimed at the peaceful demise of the apartheid regime and for the establishment of ‘a new democratic South Africa “.
Twenty years later, FW De Klerk felt that his decision had averted” a catastrophe “, pulling the Whites out of their “isolation and their guilt” and allowed blacks to access “dignity and equality”.
He accompanied for two years the young democracy in deve nant vice president of the first black president in the country. But in 1996, he resigned, criticizing the new constitution for not guaranteeing whites that they could continue to share power.
The following year, he gave up the presidency of the National Party and began his retirement from political life.
Born on 18 March 85, De Klerk has always evolved in Afrikaner nationalist circles, descendants of the first European settlers who speak a language derived from Dutch.
“He seemed to be the quintessence of the man of the apparatus (… ) Nothing in his past seemed to indicate the shadow of a spirit of reform “, wrote Nelson Mandela in his autobiography.
In 2020, he sparked a heated debate by denying that apartheid was a crime against humanity, before apologizing.