Frederik Willem de Klerk, the former South Africa President, dies at 85

The last South Africa president during apartheid and a key player in the country’s transition passes away at 85. 

Frederik Willem de Klerk, the former South Africa president and last leader of the apartheid regime has passed away. Report of the death was communicated by his foundation and is allegedly linked with his long struggle with cancer. The statement attributed the death to his struggle with mesothelioma cancer. 

De Klerk and Nelson Mandela jointly shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 in what was a “miracle” transition from the white-dominated rule. The diagnosis was announced during his 85th birthday in March. He has left behind a wife Elita, children Susan and Jan, and grandchildren. Announcements on funeral arrangements are currently taking place. 

Mandela and De Klerk played key roles in seeing the end of white-dominated minorities across the country.  In February 1990, the late country’s president announced sweeping reforms that marked the start of this negotiated transition from apartheid to democracy. These reforms lifted the ban on the  African National Congress, anti-apartheid organizations, and the release of political prisoners.

Klerk once made a speech that marks the official end of segregation policies and the beginning of negotiations that result in a constitutional democracy where all South Africans enjoy equal rights.  Some parliamentary members even walked out when the speech was being made. Nevertheless, Mandela walked out after nine days. 

Four years later, Mandela got elected as one of the country’s first Black presidents when South Africans voted him for the first time. De Klerk and Mandela was then awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 in one of the first often-tense cooperation when moving South Africa away from institutional racism and shift towards democracy. 

The apartheid leader maintained good relations with the  African National Congress even joining as a member later on. Reactions are mixed as to what role he played with some arguing that he made his historic decision only after the immense international force was exerted. 


Frederik Willem de Klerk was born in the country’s economic powerhouse of Johannesburg. His parents were Afrikaans, an ethnic minority group of Dutch colonizers. His father was a leading apartheid senator who served as the country’s interim president. He further studied law before being elected to Parliament as a member of the National Party. De Klerk proceeded to hold several positions before becoming president in 1989. He was in power until he handed over the office to Mandela is 1994 after the country conducted its first democractic election.