F. W. de Klerk

F. W. de Klerk
Frederik Willem de Klerk, 1990.jpg
de Klerk in 1990
7th State President of South Africa
In office
15 August 1989 – 10 May 1994
Preceded byP. W. Botha
Succeeded byNelson Mandela (President)
1st Deputy President of South Africa
In office
10 May 1994 – 30 June 1996
Serving with Thabo Mbeki
PresidentNelson Mandela
Preceded byAlwyn Schlebusch (Vice State President)
Succeeded byThabo Mbeki (solely)
Leader of the Opposition
In office
1996–1997
PresidentNelson Mandela
Preceded byConstand Viljoen
Succeeded byMarthinus van Schalkwyk
Minister of National Education and Planning
In office
17 September 1984 – 15 August 1989
PresidentP. W. Botha
Preceded byGerrit Viljoen (National Education)
Succeeded byGene Louw (Education and Culture)
Minister of Home Affairs
In office
1982–1985
PresidentP. W. Botha (1984–1985)
Prime MinisterP. W. Botha (1982–1984)
Preceded byChris Heunis
Succeeded byStoffel Botha
Minister of Mines and Energy
In office
1979–1982
Prime MinisterP. W. Botha
Preceded byStephanus Petrus Botha [af]
Succeeded byPietie du Plessis [af]
Minister of Sport and Recreation
In office
1978–1979
Prime MinisterP. W. Botha
Preceded byPiet Koornhof
Succeeded byGerrit Viljoen (National Education)
Minister of Posts and Telecommunications
In office
1978–1979
Prime Minister
Preceded byHendrik Smit [af]
Succeeded byJohannes Petrus van der Spuy [Wikidata]
Minister of Social Welfare and Pensions
In office
January 1978 – October 1978
Prime MinisterJohn Vorster
Preceded byJohannes Petrus van der Spuy
Succeeded bySchalk van der Merwe [af]
Personal details
Born
Frederik Willem de Klerk

(1936-03-18)18 March 1936
Johannesburg, Transvaal, Union of South Africa
Died11 November 2021(2021-11-11) (aged 85)
Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
Political partyNP (1972–1997)
Other political
affiliations
NNP (1997–2005)
Spouse(s)
(m. 1959; div. 1996)
Elita Georgiades
(m. 1999)
Children3
Parent(s)
Alma materPotchefstroom University (BA, LLB)
ProfessionAttorney
Signature
WebsiteFoundation

Frederik Willem de Klerk OMG DMS (/də ˈklɜːrk, də ˈklɛərk/, Afrikaans: [ˈfriədərək ˈvələm də ˈklɛrk], 18 March 1936 – 11 November 2021) was a South African politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who served as state president of South Africa from 1989 to 1994 and as deputy president from 1994 to 1996. As South Africa's last head of state from the era of white-minority rule, he and his government dismantled the apartheid system and introduced universal suffrage. Ideologically a conservative and an economic liberal, he led the National Party (NP) from 1989 to 1997.

Born in Johannesburg to an influential Afrikaner family, de Klerk studied at Potchefstroom University before pursuing a career in law. Joining the NP, to which he had family ties, he was elected to parliament and sat in the white-minority government of P. W. Botha, holding a succession of ministerial posts. As a minister, he supported and enforced apartheid, a system of racial segregation that privileged white South Africans. After Botha resigned in 1989, de Klerk replaced him, first as leader of the NP and then as State President. Although observers expected him to continue Botha's defence of apartheid, de Klerk decided to end the policy. He was aware that growing ethnic animosity and violence was leading South Africa into a racial civil war. Amid this violence, the state security forces committed widespread human rights abuses and encouraged violence between the Xhosa and Zulu people, although de Klerk later denied sanctioning such actions. He permitted anti-apartheid marches to take place, legalised a range of previously banned anti-apartheid political parties, and freed imprisoned anti-apartheid activists such as Nelson Mandela. He also dismantled South Africa's nuclear weapons program.

De Klerk negotiated with Mandela to fully dismantle apartheid and establish a transition to universal suffrage. In 1993, he publicly apologized for apartheid's harmful effects. He oversaw the 1994 non-racial election in which Mandela led the African National Congress (ANC) to victory; de Klerk's NP took second place. De Klerk then became Deputy President in Mandela's ANC-led coalition, the Government of National Unity. In this position, he supported the government continued liberal economic policies but opposed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up to investigate past human rights abuses because he wanted total amnesty for political crimes. His working relationship with Mandela was strained, although he later spoke fondly of him. In May 1996, after the NP objected to the new constitution, de Klerk withdrew it from the coalition government; the party disbanded the following year and reformed as the New National Party. In 1997, he retired from active politics and thereafter lectured internationally.

De Klerk was a controversial figure among many sections of South African society, all for different reasons. He received many awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize for dismantling apartheid and bringing universal suffrage to South Africa. Conversely, he received criticism from anti-apartheid activists for offering only a qualified apology for apartheid, and for ignoring the human rights abuses by state security forces. He was also condemned by South Africa's white nationalists, who contended that by abandoning apartheid, he betrayed the interests of the country's white minority.


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