FW De Klerk dies dead

Former President FW De Klerk has died at age 85. Image via: ‘Archive Photo’

FW de Klerk: Five key moments in his life

Here are five key moments in the life of Former state president FW de Klerk who died at his home on Thursday morning.

FW De Klerk dies dead

Former President FW De Klerk has died at age 85. Image via: ‘Archive Photo’

Former state president FW de Klerk died at his home in Cape Town on Thursday at the age of 85.

He was South Africa’s last white president and was a key actor in the country’s transition to democracy. Here are some of the key moments of his role in the history of South Africa.


  • During his presidency from September 1989 until May 1994, FW de Klerk dismantled apartheid and 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 Nelson Mandela, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • After the election on 27 April 1994, 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.
  • He retired from active politics in September 1997.
  • In 1999 he published his autobiography, “The Last Trek – A New Beginning” and established the FW de Klerk Foundation.

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  • Frederik Willem de Klerk was born in Johannesburg, Transvaal (now Gauteng) on 18 March 1936.
  • F.W. de Klerk grew up in a political family, with both his father and grandfather serving high office.
  • His father, Jan de Klerk, was a Cabinet Minister and the President of the South African Senate. His brother is Dr Willem (Wimpie) de Klerk, a political analyst and one of the founders of the Democratic Party.
  • After finishing school in Krugersdorp, F.W. de Klerk graduated in 1958 from Potchefstroom University with BA and Ll.B degrees (the latter cum laude). At the same time he was awarded the Abe Bailey scholarship (an all-expenses paid educational tour to the United Kingdom).
  • In 1969 he married Marike Willemse, with whom he had two sons and a daughter.
  • From 1961-1972 de Klerk practiced as an attorney in Vereeniging.
  • During this time, he played an active part in Nationalist Party politics and in local educational affairs. He was offered the chair of Administrative Law at Potchefstroom University but declined the position.
  • He was elected Member of Parliament for Vereeniging in November 1972.
  • In 1975 he became information officer of the Transvaal National Party.


He held several ministerial positions in the Cabinet of President P.W. Botha, including:

  • Minister of Post and Telecommunications and Sport and Recreation (1978-1979)
  • Mines, Energy and Environmental Planning (1979-1980);
  • Mineral and Energy Affairs (1980-1982);
  • Internal Affairs (1982-1985); and
  • National Education and Planning (1984-1989).

In 1982 he became the Transvaal leader of the National Party after Andries Treurnicht quit the party.

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In 1985 De Klerk was appointed chairman of the Ministers’ Council in the House of Assembly and in 1986 he became the House’s leader. When P.W. Botha resigned as leader of the National Party in February 1989, he was succeeded by de Klerk.


In September, he was elected the new State President. He soon announced his policy of reform: he hoped to create a suitable climate for negotiations that would end apartheid and bring about a new Constitutional dispensation for South Africa, based on the principle of one person, one vote.

In December 1989, de Klerk met with the imprisoned leader of the African National Congress (ANC), Nelson Mandela.

On 2 February 1990, de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) and on 11 February 1990 Mandela was released.

The FW de Klerk Foundation said on Thursday:

“The former president died earlier this morning at his home in Fresnaye after his struggle against cancer. He was 85-years-old. He is survived by his wife Elita, two children Susan and Jan, and his grandchildren,” it said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to announce details of De Klerk’s state funeral in due course.