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De Klerk described as a man of great values who 'had the courage of his convictions'

Published Dec 13, 2021

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Cape Town - Former president FW De Klerk has been described as a man of great values and strong beliefs who was often misunderstood for his correctness.

Speaking at the memorial service at Groote Kerk on Sunday, as dignitaries, family members and friends bade farewell to De Klerk at a state memorial service, his widow, Elita de Klerk said her husband had many struggles in his private life.

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“Once he knew what he wanted to achieve, he planned it meticulously anticipating all obstacles in order to bring it to reality. He was torn between intellect and emotion. His emotion was for the pain the country was going through,” Elita said.

“He could not find peace in this horrendous system. He was a very private man, guarding his inner soul at all costs. Suddenly, he started seeing that choosing emotion did not seem like a betrayal, it meant justice,” she said.

De Klerk’s son Jan said the memorial service has somehow brought closure to the family. He said it was now time to start building on the future and stop looking at the past.

De Klerk’s death on November 11 was marked by arms-length commentary and the release of pent-up anger on social media.

De Klerk died at his home in Fresnaye, Cape Town, after his long battle with mesothelioma cancer. He was laid to rest on November 21 at a private ceremony.

He served as deputy president under former president Nelson Mandela from 1994 to 1996, having played a role in South Africa’s transition to democracy.

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FW de Klerk's wife Elita Georgiades. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
FW de Klerk's wife Elita Georgiades and President Cyril Ramaphosa. South African dignitaries, family members and friends bid farewell to former president, FW De Klerk at a sate memorial service in Die Groote Kerk in Cape Town. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
FW de Klerk's wife Elita Georgiades and President Cyril Ramaphosa. South African dignitaries, family members and friends bid farewell to former president, FW De Klerk at a sate memorial service in Die Groote Kerk in Cape Town. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

During his eulogy, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he came to know De Klerk over many years during negotiations, first at Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) and the multi-party talks, and later in the Constitutional Assembly.

Ramaphosa said they had moments of friendliness, but also had their disagreements.

“He could be affable but he could also be stubborn. He could be prepared to compromise but he could also dig in his heels. Sometimes he offered me counsel, other times I offered it to him. And there were times when strong words were exchanged between us,” Ramaphosa said.

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He said yet even in moments of difficulty, at times when they were close to the brink, he found him to be courteous, respectful and committed.

“FW de Klerk had the courage of his convictions.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers eulogy at FW de Klerk's state memorial service. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers eulogy at FW de Klerk's state memorial service. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)
FW de Klerk's wife Elita Georgiades and President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Meanwhile, a group of people continued to protest outside the Groote Kerk calling on Ramaphosa to meet with the families of victims of the apartheid-era atrocities.

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Some protesters called on the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Shamila Batohi to resign due to the alleged lack of prosecutions.

FW de Klerk Foundation chairperson Dave Steward said De Klerk had left the country better than he had found it.

Steward said De Klerk will be remembered for his passion for democracy.

“He will be remembered for his unwavering commitment to the constitutional democracy that he, Nelson Mandela, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Thabo Mbeki and all the other negotiators helped to create.”.

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Cape Argus

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