South Africa’s Last Apartheid President F. W. de Klerk Dies Having Changed From Supremacist To Radical

South African Nobel Peace Laureate Nelson Mandela and former President F W de Klerk 2006. REUTERS

The last white president of South Africa F.W. de Klerk has died on Thursday at his home in Cape Town at the age of 85. He had been battling cancer.

The Nobel Peace prize winner shocked the world when he ended the despised apartheid rule in South Africa to negotiate a peaceful transition of power to a government led under Nelson Mandela.

De Klerk’s movement from being a servant of apartheid into one who smashed down its walls echoed the change of the former Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev from communism.

Less than three months after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, he opened the way for an end to more than four decades of apartheid in 1990, that “unbanned” the African National Congress signalling the release of its leader after 27 years in Robben Island.

At de Klerk’s 70th birthday celebrations in 2006, Mandela heaped praise on his predecessor for taking that leap into the political unknown “You have shown courage that few have done in similar circumstances.


In 1993 de Klerk shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela, who would win the presidency the following year in the first multi-racial elections in Africa’s biggest economy.

After the vote, the National Party shared power in a “Government of National Unity” in which he served as a deputy president.

He retired in 1997 and later apologised for the miseries of apartheid before Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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.

He also appeared genuinely moved by Mandela’s death. “Tata, we will miss you,” he said in a statement, using the affectionate South African term for grandfather by which Mandela was known.