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Late FW De Klerk played an important role in SA’s history, says office of Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The office of Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that the former president occupied a historic and difficult space in South Africa, but that De Klerk played an important role in its history. Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

The office of Archbishop Desmond Tutu said that the former president occupied a historic and difficult space in South Africa, but that De Klerk played an important role in its history. Picture: Mike Hutchings/Reuters

Published Nov 11, 2021

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Cape Town - The role of former President FW De Klerk in the country’s transition to democracy was acknowledged in a statement from Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s office.

In a statement issued by Dr Mamphela Ramphele, co-ordinator of the Office of the Archbishop, both Archbishop Emeritus Desmond and Leah Tutu expressed their condolences to the family of former President FW De Klerk after his passing.

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“The former president occupied an historic but difficult space in South Africa,” the statement read.

“He was the last head of state of a minority government after 350 years of colonial and apartheid rule, who ceded power to a hugely popular President Nelson Mandela after the country’s first democratic elections in 1994.”

The FW de Klerk Foundation announced the death of former President FW de Klerk earlier 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 against mesothelioma cancer.

“Mr De Klerk was 85 years old. He is survived by his wife Elita, his children Jan and Susan and his grandchildren. The family will, in due course, make an announcement regarding funeral arrangements,” the foundation said.

De Klerk served as leader of the National Party and led the apartheid government from 1989 until the dawn of our democracy in 1994.

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During his presidency De Klerk initiated and presided over the inclusive negotiations that led to the adoption of South Africa’s first fully democratic Constitution in December 1993.

Also in 1993, together with former President Nelson Mandela, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

After the election on April 27, 1994, Mr De Klerk served as one of South Africa’s two Executive Deputy Presidents until 1996, when his party withdrew from the Government of National Unity.

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He retired from active politics in September 1997.

De Klerk announced his mesothelioma diagnosis during his 85th birthday celebrations in March 2021. According to a statement from his foundation, De Klerk began undergoing immunotherapy treatment in March 2021.

The statement from the office of Archbishop Desmond Tutu acknowledged the complexity in which De Klerk would be remembered, but also honoured his role in the country’s transition into democratic state.

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“He was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela for his contribution to setting South Africa on the road to peace and justice,” the statement said.

“Although some South Africans found the global recognition of Mr De Klerk hard to accept, Mr Mandela himself praised him for his courage in seeing the country’s political transformation process through.

“After Mr De Klerk appeared at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission before Archbishop Tutu, the Archbishop addressed the media to express disappointment that the former president had not made a more wholesome apology on behalf of the National Party to the nation for the evils of apartheid.

“But in more recent years, the Tutus and De Klerks developed closer relations,” Tutu’s office said.

“The late FW De Klerk played an important role in South Africa’s history. At a time when not all of his colleagues saw the future trajectory of the country unfolding in the same way, he recognised the moment for change and demonstrated the will to act on it.

“To the family of the late president, we extend our deepest condolences. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.“

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