F.W. de Klerk
Did you know?
F.W. de Klerk’s brother, Dr Willem de Klerk, was the editor of a liberal local newspaper and openly criticised the National Party.
Former President F.W. de Klerk was instrumental in shaping the democracy we enjoy in South Africa today. As the leader of apartheid’s National Party, he together with freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, brought apartheid to an end by sitting down and negotiating a new constitution for all South Africans. This meant a new day for the country, and (for the first time) equality across the colour bar. De Klerk, born in 1936 into a family of apartheid politicians, stood up to generations of fundamentalist Afrikaner philosophy by unbanning the African National Congress and releasing Nelson Mandela from prison. His brave actions in moving towards a democratic country earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. After the first democratic elections in 1994, de Klerk was appointed the Second Vice President in Nelson Mandela’s cabinet.
A qualified advocate, the Nobel Prize winner F.W. de Klerk practiced law from 1958 before taking up various National Party ministerial posts in the apartheid government. In 1989, he was elected as prime minister and in his first speech as the country’s leader he called for a non-racist South Africa: ''Our goal is a totally changed South Africa,” he commented. A year later, he lifted the ban on the ANC and released Nelson Mandela from his lifetime sentence.
In doing so, F.W. de Klerk gave up his claim to the reins of South Africa and recognised the need for equality across the races. He called to halt the privileges the Afrikaner minority afforded themselves, revoking the decades of Afrikaner philosophy and values he himself was brought up to believe in. He is remembered in South African history as a fair and flexible leader who helped paved the way for a new constitution and democratic elections. Today, De Klerk has retired from politics.