de Klerk, F. W. (Frederik Willem de
[key], 1936–2021, South African statesman, president of South
Africa (1989–94), b. Johannesburg, Potchefstroom University for
Christian Higher Education (B.A., LL.B., 1958). De Klerk was born into a
political family; his father had served as a minister in three
administrations and his uncle, Hans Strijdom, had served as the country's
prime minister (1954-58). Holding ministerial posts from 1978, he became
(1989) acting president when P. W. Botha resigned. Recognizing that black
resistance to the white power monopoly would only increase, de Klerk,
despite his conservative reputation, began the process of ending apartheid, lifting the ban on
antiapartheid parties and releasing Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990. In 1991 he
obtained the repeal of all remaining apartheid laws and called for the
drafting of a new constitution, leading to the approval of a multiracial
transitional government in 1993. De Klerk and Mandela were jointly awarded
the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993. Mandela succeeded de Klerk as president
in 1994, and de Klerk became one of two vice presidents in a government of
national unity. Two years later the National Party withdrew from the
government to form an official opposition, and in 1997 De Klerk retired from
politics. After his retirement, he founded the FW de Klerk Foundation (2000)
to promote world peace.
See his autobiographical The Last Trek (1999); The Other Man: F.W. de
Klerk and the End of Apartheid (documentary film, 2015).
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