FW de Klerk: South Africa’s former president dies at 85

FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela in 2010

FW de Klerk, the former president of South Africa and the last white person to lead the country, has died at the age of 85.

Mr de Klerk, who was also a key figure in the transition to democracy, had been diagnosed with cancer this year.

He was head of state between September 1989 and May 1994.

In 1990 he announced he was releasing Nelson Mandela, leading to historic elections that brought the anti-apartheid leader to power.

Mr de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mr Mandela for helping to negotiate an end to apartheid. But his legacy divides opinion in South Africa.

 A statement from the former president’s FW de Klerk Foundation on Thursday said that he died peacefully at his home in Cape Town following his struggle against mesothelioma cancer.

The foundation had announced the diagnosis – a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs – in June.

Mr de Klerk is survived by his wife Elita, his children Jan and Susan and his grandchildren, the statement said.

Ending apartheid

The former president was born in March 1936 in Johannesburg, into a line of Afrikaner National Party politicians.

He worked as a lawyer and served in a series of ministerial posts before taking over from PW Botha as the head of the National Party in February 1989, and months later becoming president.

In a famous speech to parliament the following year, he announced that he was removing the ban on parties that included Mr Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC).

Source: BBC News

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