Johannesburg, Nov 11 (EFE).- Former South African president Frederik Willem de Klerk, the leader who led the end of the country’s racist Apartheid system died Thursday from cancer, sources from his foundation said. He was 85.
“With great regret, the Klerk Foundation must announce that former President F. W. de Klerk died peacefully at his home in Fresnaye (a suburb of Cape Town, in southwestern South Africa) this morning, after his battle with mesothelioma cancer,” the organization said in a statement. “He is survived by his wife Elita, his children Jan and Susan and his grandchildren.”
The last white president of South Africa had announced he had been diagnosed with this disease – a rare cancer that affects the mesothelium, the tissue that lines the lungs, stomach, heart and other organs – on March 18, his birthday.
De Klerk, South Africa’s president between 1989 and 1994, was the leader who opened the door to the dismantling of the segregationist Apartheid regime in 1990, in a scenario of great international pressure and only after more than four decades of total oppression for the country’s “non-white” majority.
For that historic milestone, which would lead South Africa to hold its first democratic elections in 1994, in 1993 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with his main counterpart in that process, Nelson Mandela.
His Feb. 2, 1990 speech, in which he announced the beginning of the end of Apartheid and the immediate release of political prisoners was particularly noteworthy, including Mandela himself (who would be released from jail only a few days later.)
“It is time for us to get out of the cycle of violence and make our way to peace and reconciliation. The silent majority yearns for it,” he said at that historic moment.
Despite this achievement – and although he also served as vice president of South Africa’s first democratic government under Mandela – his legacy remains controversial in the country, where the sequels of Apartheid are present to this day in the form of great socioeconomic inequalities. EFE