Former South African leader FW de Klerk dies aged 85: Country’s last white president who led nation out of apartheid and freed Nelson Mandela loses lung cancer battle
- Frederik Willem de Klerk was the President of South Africa from 1989 to 1994
- He is the nation’s last white leader and helped free the country from apartheid
- De Klerk was responsible for releasing Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990
- Together they won the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in dismantling apartheid and paving the way for a democratic South Africa
Frederik Willem de Klerk, the former President of South Africa from 1989 to 1994 who oversaw the country’s transition from apartheid, has died aged 85.
De Klerk was diagnosed with mesothelioma – a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs – in March of this year, and was undergoing an immunotherapy treatment to battle the illness.
The FW de Klerk Foundation’s spokesperson confirmed the former president’s death in a statement this morning.
‘It is with the deepest sadness that the FW de Klerk Foundation must announce that former President FW de Klerk died peacefully at his home in Fresnaye earlier this morning following his struggle against mesothelioma cancer.’
The president is survived by his wife Elita, two children Susan and Jan, and several grandchildren.
Frederik Willem de Klerk, the former President of South Africa from 1989 to 1994 who oversaw the country’s transition from apartheid, has died aged 85 (de Klerk pictured in 2018)
De Klerk announced in 1990 he announced he was releasing anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela just one year after he became president. He and Mandela jointly received the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for their collaborative efforts to usher in non-racial democracy in the country (pictured: Mandela (L) and De Klerk (R) at the reception of the peace prize in Oslo, Norway, 1993)
Born March 18, 1936 in Johannesburg, De Klerk was the son of a leading politician and from an early age was set to follow in his father’s footsteps.
He received a law degree from Potchefstroom University in 1958, and soon afterward established a successful law firm which he used as a springboard into local politics and current affairs.
By 1972, he had been elected to Parliament as a member of South Africa’s National Party and a quickly excelled, overseeing a variety of departments including mines and energy affairs, internal affairs, and national education and planning.
He was elected leader of the House of Assembly in 1986, and after sitting president Pieter Willem Botha fell ill in early 1989, De Klerk became the President of South Africa on September 14 of the same year.
De Klerk was a key figure in South Africa’s transition away from a white minority government into democracy.
He announced in 1990 he announced he was releasing anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela just one year after he became president, which led to multi-party polls in 1994 and paved the way for a democratic South Africa.
De Klerk and Mandela jointly received the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for their collaborative efforts to usher in non-racial democracy in the country.
More to follow.