JOHANNESBURG: FW de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president, has died aged 85, his foundation announced on Thursday.
“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 again,” the statement said.
De Klerk, 85, headed South Africa’s white minority government until 1994, when Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress party swept to power.
He shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela, but his role in the transition to democracy remains highly contested more than 20 years after the end of apartheid.
He was diagnosed in March with mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the tissue lining the lungs.
“He is survived by his wife Elita, his children Jan and Susan and his grandchildren,” the foundation said, adding that the family would in due course make an announcement regarding funeral arrangements.
Hailing from a prominent White Afrikaner family, de Klerk evolved into a moderate reformer influenced by the ideological changes in the late 1980s that saw Mikhail Gorbachev implemeant his “perestroika” or political “opening” in the Soviet Union. While de Klerk was in favour of gradual change, the rapid end of the apartheid system was achieved, under his watch, without major violence.