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Last apartheid South African president F.W. de Klerk dies

Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Associated Press/Photo by Jon Eeg/NTB

Last apartheid South African president F.W. de Klerk dies

Frederik Willem de Klerk died peacefully at home on Thursday in Cape Town, South Africa, after a battle with mesothelioma cancer, according to a statement from his foundation. His wife, two children, and grandchildren survive him. The foundation released a posthumous video from the former president in which he apologized for his role in apartheid in the 1980s: “Let me today, in the last message repeat: I, without qualification, apologize for the pain and the hurt, and the indignity, and the damage, to black, brown and Indians in South Africa.”

What is de Klerk’s legacy? He became South Africa’s youngest president ever when he took the office in 1989. De Klerk spearheaded a massive political upset when he announced five months later that he would release Nelson Mandela, his political opponent, from prison, lift the ban on the African National Congress, and begin negotiations to end apartheid. Several activists and black South Africans blamed him for continued violence in the region and a vague stance on apartheid. White South Africans viewed his upheaval of the political and cultural structure as a betrayal. In 1993, de Klerk ratified a new constitution that formally ended apartheid. He and Mandela both received the Nobel Peace Prize that year for pro-democracy cooperation. De Klerk lost reelection in the following year and joined Mandela’s cabinet as deputy.

Dig deeper: Listen to Onize Ohikere’s report in World Tour about church leaders in South Africa.

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a reporter for WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College graduate. She resides in Harrisburg, Pa.



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