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South Africa’s Last Apartheid-era President, F.W. de Klerk, Dies at 85

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Ayara Pommellshttps://thehub.news
Ayara Pommells is the Co-Founder of ShineMyCrown.com and EIC of Karen Hunter's TheHub.News. Contributor for GrungeCake and NMAAM #BlackGirlMagic pusha. Powered by herbal tea, candles and wax melts. Ambassador for Nigerian charities, Dreams from the Slum and The Iranwo Foundation.

FW de Klerk, South Africa’s last apartheid-era leader, has died at 85.

De Klerk passed away at his home in Fresnaye, the FW de Klerk Foundation said in a statement. His cause of death is listed as mesothelioma cancer.

De Klerk was born in Johannesburg on March 18, 1936. His father, Jan de Klerk, a headmaster, served as a cabinet member under three prime ministers and the senate president. His uncle, Hans Strijdom, served as prime minister in the 1950s and was a staunch defender of apartheid.

De Klerk was born into a family of proud Afrikaners— white South African’s descended from 17th century Dutch, German, and French settlers to South Africa.

His fierce defense of racial segregation marred the beginnings of De Klerk’s political career. He worked as an attorney and served in a series of ministerial posts. In 1989, he became the head of the National Party February 1989. Months later, he was elected president of the country.

However, after taking office, he began to have a change of heart. In 1990, de Klerk lifted the 30-year ban on the African National Congress. He also ordered the release of Nelson Mandela from prison after 27 years. He worked alongside Mandela to dismantle the apartheid system. De Klerk and Mandela’s efforts earned them a joint Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

On the surface, the pair enjoyed a close, working relationship. However, behind closed doors, de Klerk was less than happy with Mandela’s public speeches. Mandela was not pleased with having to share his award with de Klerk.

“I was seething,” de Klerk wrote in his autobiography, “The Last Trek — A New Beginning,” of Mandela’s speech in Sweden after the prize ceremony. “It was only with the greatest self-control that I once again managed to bite my tongue and not shatter once and for all the illusion that there was a cordial relationship between me and Mandela.”

Nonetheless, the pair continued to work together.

The governing National Party reached an agreement with the ANC in 1993 on a transition to majority rule. In April 1994, the ANC obtained a majority of seats in the new National Assembly. De Klerk then joined a government of national unity formed by Mandela, where he served as second deputy president. He resigned as deputy president in 1996 and as head of the National Party in 1997, before retiring from politics that same year.

On Thursday, Archbishop Desmond Tutu paid tribute to the late political leader, saying he “recognised the moment for change and demonstrated the will to act on it.”

“The former President occupied an historic but difficult space in South Africa,” a statement from Tutu’s office said. “Although some South Africans found the global recognition of Mr De Klerk hard to accept, Mr Mandela, himself, praised him for his courage in seeing the country’s political transformation process through.”

De Klerk’s legacy continued to be a source of debate up until his death. Despite his attempts to turn a new leaf and shake the stain of pro-apartheid origins, South Africa has never forgotten.

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

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