President Cyril Ramaphosa has condoled the wife of the late former president FW de Klerk, following the passing of the last apartheid-era leader of South Africa due to lung cancer on Thursday.
De Klerk died on Thursday after a long illness.
“I have learned with great sadness of the passing of former Deputy President and former State President Frederik Willem “FW” de Klerk,” Ramaphosa said in message to Elita de Klerk.
Ramaphosa said de Klerk, aged 85, was a leader of a party that was “vastly discredited” in relation to the role it played in enforcing apartheid, presiding over a bloody state of emergency in the 1980s until his party lost power to the African National Congress in 1994.
Ramaphosa said de Klerk played a vital role in South Africa’s transition to democracy in the 1990s, which originated from his first meeting in 1989 with former president Nelson Mandela who was a political prisoner at that stage.
“He took the courageous decision to unban political parties, release political prisoners, and enter into negotiations with the liberation movement amid severe pressure to the contrary from many in his political constituency,” Ramaphosa said.
He described de Klerk as “a committed South African who embraced the democratic constitutional dispensation and placed the long-term future of the country ahead of narrow political interests.”
“Serving as deputy president from 1994 to 1996, Mr. de Klerk played an important role in the Government of National Unity, dedicating himself to the constitutional imperative of healing the divisions and conflict of our past.”
The FW de Klerk Foundation is expected to announce funeral arrangements in the next few days.