FW de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president who freed Mandela dies at 85

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Frederick Willem de Klerk, the last white South African president, who freed Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s freedom fighter and its first black president from prison is dead.

De Klerk’s death on Thursday was announced by his foundation, the FW de Klerk Foundation, in a statement. He died aged 85 after a battle with cancer, the diagnosis of which, he personally announced on his 85th birthday, on March 18 this year.

“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 foundation said.

He is survived by his wife Elita, children Jan and Susan, and grandchildren.

“The family will, in due course, make an announcement regarding funeral arrangements,” it added.

De Klerk and Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for leading the “miracle” transition from white rule in the country.

He is most remembered for his famous speech delivered on February 2, 1990, announcing the lifting of a ban on the African National Congress (ANC) and other liberation movements.

In the same speech, he ordered the release from the prison of anti-apartheid icon Mandela after 27 years in jail.

Born in the economic hub of Johannesburg, into a family of Afrikaners, a white ethnic group descended mainly from Dutch colonisers, his father was a leading apartheid senator who served briefly as interim president.

He studied law, before being elected to parliament as a member of the National Party that instituted apartheid.

De Klerk then held several ministerial positions before he became president in 1989, a position he held until he handed over to Mandela after the first democratic elections in 1994.

 AFP

editor

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