F. W. de Klerk

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His Excellency
F. W. de Klerk
OMG
F. W. de Klerk 2012.jpg
State President of South Africa
In office
15 August 1989 – 9 May 1994
Preceded by P. W. Botha
Succeeded by Nelson Mandela
As President of South Africa
Deputy President of South Africa
In office
10 May 1994 – 30 June 1996
Serving with Thabo Mbeki
Until 30 June 1996
President Nelson Mandela
Preceded by Office Established
Alwyn Schlebusch
As Vice State President, 1981 – 1984
Succeeded by Thabo Mbeki (solely)
Jacob Zuma
Personal details
Born Frederik Willem de Klerk
(1936-03-18) 18 March 1936 (age 78)
Johannesburg, Transvaal Province, Union of South Africa
Nationality South African
Political party National Party
Other political
affiliations
New National Party
Spouse(s) Marike Willemse(1959–1998)
Elita Georgiadis (1998–present)
Relations Johannes de Klerk
Children Jan de Klerk
Willem de Klerk
Susan de Klerk
Residence Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
Alma mater Potchefstroom University
Occupation Politician
Profession Attorney
Religion Reformed (af: Gereformeerd)
Signature

Frederik Willem de Klerk (born 18 March 1936) is a South African politician who served as the country's State President from September 1989 to May 1994. He was the seventh and last head of state of South Africa under the apartheid era. De Klerk was also leader of the National Party (which later became the New National Party) from February 1989 to September 1997.

De Klerk brokered the end of apartheid, South Africa's racial segregation policy, and supported the transformation of South Africa into a multi-racial democracy by entering into the negotiations that resulted in all citizens, including the country's black majority, having equal voting and other rights. He won the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize in 1991, the Prince of Asturias Award in 1992 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 along with Nelson Mandela for his role in the ending of apartheid.

He was one of the deputy presidents of South Africa during the presidency of Nelson Mandela until 1996, the last white person to hold the position to date. In 1997 he retired from active politics. He continues to remain active as a lecturer internationally.[1] After the deaths of P.W. Botha in 2006 and Marias Viljoen in 2007, de Klerk is the last surviving state president of South Africa.

Background and early career[edit]

The name "de Klerk" is derived from Le Clerc, Le Clercq, and de Clercq and is of French Huguenot origin[2] (literally it means "the clerk" in both French and Dutch). De Klerk noted that he is also of Dutch descent,[3][4] with an Indian ancestor from the late 1600s or early 1700s.[5] He is also said to be descended from the Khoi interpreter known as Krotoa or Eva.[6]

De Klerk was born in Johannesburg, in the then Transvaal Province of the Union of South Africa, to Johannes "Jan" de Klerk and Hendrina Cornelia Coetzer – "her forefather was a Kutzer who stems from Austria".[7][8] He came from a family environment in which the conservatism of traditional white South African politics was deeply ingrained. His paternal great-grandfather was Senator Johannes Cornelis "Jan" van Rooy.[9][10] His aunt was married to NP Prime Minister J. G. Strijdom. In 1948, the year when the NP swept to power in whites-only elections on an apartheid platform, F. W. de Klerk's father, Johannes "Jan" de Klerk, became secretary of the NP in the Transvaal province and later rose to the positions of cabinet minister and President of the Senate, becoming interim State President in 1975.[11] His brother Willem is a liberal newspaperman and one of the founders of the Democratic Party. De Klerk graduated from Monument High School in Krugersdorp. De Klerk graduated in 1958 from the Potchefstroom University with BA and LL.B degrees (the latter cum laude). Following graduation, de Klerk practised law in Vereeniging in the Transvaal. In 1959 he married Marike Willemse, with whom he had two sons and a daughter.[12]

"F.W.", pronounced "eff-veer", as he became popularly known, was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1969 as the member for Vereeniging, and entered the cabinet in 1978. De Klerk had been offered a professorship of administrative law at Potchefstroom in 1972 but he declined the post because he was serving in Parliament. In 1978, he was appointed Minister of Posts and Telecommunications and Social Welfare and Pensions by Prime Minister Vorster. Under Prime Minister and later State President P. W. Botha, he held a succession of ministerial posts, including Posts and Telecommunications and Sports 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). He became Transvaal provincial National Party leader in 1982. In 1985, he became chairman of the Minister's Council in the House of Assembly.

Ending apartheid[edit]

Frederik de Klerk and Nelson Mandela shake hands at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum held in Davos in January 1992.

For most of his career, de Klerk had a very conservative reputation. The NP's Transvaal branch was historically the most staunchly conservative wing of the party, and he supported continued segregation of universities while Minister of National Education. It thus came as a surprise when in 1989 he placed himself at the head of verligte ("enlightened") forces within the governing party who had come to believe that apartheid could not be maintained forever. This wing favoured beginning negotiations while there was still time to get reasonable terms.

P. W. Botha resigned as leader of the National Party after an apparent stroke, and de Klerk defeated Botha's preferred successor, finance minister Barend du Plessis, in the race to succeed him. A month later, the NP caucus nominated de Klerk as state president. Botha initially refused to resign, saying that he intended to serve out his full five-year term, which expired in 1990. He even hinted that he might run for re-election. However, after protracted negotiations, Botha agreed to resign after the September 1989 parliamentary elections and hand power to de Klerk. However, Botha abruptly resigned on 14 August, and de Klerk was named acting state president until 20 September, when he was elected to a full five-year term as state president.

In some of his first speeches after assuming the party leadership, he called for a non-racist South Africa and for negotiations about the country's future. A couple of months later, in February 1990, he suddenly lifted the bans on the African National Congress (ANC) and the Communist Party of South Africa, released Nelson Mandela and also many others who had been imprisoned solely on the grounds of their membership in the ANC or CPSA. In legislative terms, he enabled the gradual end of apartheid. De Klerk also opened the way for the negotiations of the government with the anti-apartheid-opposition about a new constitution for the country. Nevertheless, he was accused by Anthony Sampson of complicity in the violence between the ANC, the Inkatha Freedom Party and elements of the security forces. In Mandela: The Authorised Biography, Sampson accuses de Klerk of permitting his ministers to build their own criminal empires.[13]

His presidency was dominated by the negotiation process, mainly between his NP government and Mandela's ANC, which led to the democratisation of South Africa. In 1992, de Klerk held a whites-only referendum, with the result being an overwhelming "yes" vote to continue negotiations to end apartheid.

In 1990, de Klerk gave orders to end South Africa's nuclear weapons programme; the process of nuclear disarmament was essentially completed in 1991. The existence of the programme was not officially acknowledged before 1993.[14]

In 1993, de Klerk and Mandela were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work ending apartheid.

After the first universal elections in 1994, de Klerk became deputy president in the government of national unity under Nelson Mandela, a post he kept until 1996. In 1997 he resigned the leadership of the National Party and retired from politics.

Later life[edit]

In 1996, de Klerk was offered the Harper Fellowship at Yale Law School. He later declined, citing protests at the university.[15] De Klerk did, however, speak at Central Connecticut State University the day before his fellowship would have begun.

In 1998, de Klerk and his wife of 38 years, Marike de Klerk, were divorced following the discovery of his affair with Elita Georgiades,[16] then the wife of Tony Georgiades, a Greek shipping tycoon who had allegedly given de Klerk and the NP financial support.[17] Soon after his divorce, de Klerk and Georgiades were married. His divorce and remarriage scandalised conservative South African opinion, especially among the Calvinist Afrikaners. In 1999, his autobiography, The Last Trek – A New Beginning, was published. De Klerk successfully had a chapter from Marike's biography, A Place Where the Sun Shines Again, dealing with his infidelity, censored.[18]

In 1999, de Klerk established the pro-peace FW de Klerk Foundation of which he is the chairman. De Klerk is also chairman of the Global Leadership Foundation which he set up in 2004, an organisation which works to support democratic leadership, prevent and resolve conflict through mediation and promote good governance in the form of democratic institutions, open markets, human rights and the rule of law. It does so by making available, discreetly and in confidence, the experience of former leaders to today's national leaders. It is a not-for-profit organisation composed of former heads of government and senior governmental and international organisation officials who work closely with heads of government on governance-related issues of concern to them.

On 4 December 2001, Marike de Klerk was found stabbed and violently strangled to death in her Cape Town flat. De Klerk, who was on a brief visit to Stockholm, Sweden, to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Nobel Prize foundation, announced he would immediately return to mourn his dead ex-wife. The atrocity was reportedly condemned strongly by South African president Thabo Mbeki and Winnie Mandela, among others, who openly spoke in favour of Marike de Klerk. On 6 December 21-year-old security guard Luyanda Mboniswa was arrested for the murder. On 15 May 2003, he received two life sentences for murder, as well as three years for breaking into Marike de Klerk's apartment.[citation needed]

In 2004, de Klerk announced that he was quitting the New National Party and seeking a new political home after it was announced that the NNP would merge with the ruling ANC. That same year, while giving an interview to US journalist Richard Stengel, de Klerk was asked whether South Africa had turned out the way he envisioned it back in 1990. His response was: "There are a number of imperfections in the new South Africa where I would have hoped that things would be better, but on balance I think we have basically achieved what we set out to achieve. And if I were to draw balance sheets on where South Africa stands now, I would say that the positive outweighs the negative by far. There is a tendency by commentators across the world to focus on the few negatives which are quite negative, like how are we handling AIDS, like our role vis-à-vis Zimbabwe. But the positives – the stability in South Africa, the adherence to well-balanced economic policies, fighting inflation, doing all the right things in order to lay the basis and the foundation for sustained economic growth – are in place."[19] In 2008, he repeated in a speech that "despite all the negatives facing South Africa, he is very positive about the country".[20]

In 2006, he underwent surgery for a malignant tumour in his colon, discovered after an examination on 3 June. His condition deteriorated sharply, and he underwent a second operation after developing respiratory problems. On 13 June, it was announced that he was to undergo a tracheotomy.[21][22][23] He recovered and on 11 September 2006 gave a speech at Kent State University Stark Campus.[24][25]

In January 2007, de Klerk was a speaker promoting peace and democracy in the world at the "Towards a Global Forum on New Democracies" event in Taipei, Taiwan, along with other dignitaries including Poland's Lech Wałęsa and Taiwan's then president Chen Shui-Bian.[26]

De Klerk is an Honorary Patron of the University Philosophical Society and Honorary Chairman of the Prague Society for International Cooperation.[25] He has also received the Gold Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Public Discourse from the College Historical Society for his contribution to ending apartheid.

De Klerk is also a Member of the Advisory Board of the Global Panel Foundation based in Berlin, Copenhagen, New York, Prague, Sydney and Toronto – founded by the Dutch entrepreneur Bas Spuybroek in 1988, with the support of Dutch billionaire Frans Lurvink and former Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek. The Global Panel Foundation is known for its behind-the-scenes work in public policy and the annual presentation of the Hanno R. Ellenbogen Citizenship Award with the Prague Society for International Cooperation.

After the inauguration of Jacob Zuma as South Africa's president in May 2009, de Klerk said he is optimistic that Zuma and his government can "confound the prophets of doom".[27]

In a BBC interview broadcast in April 2012, he said he lived in an all-white neighbourhood. He had five servants, three coloured and two black: "We are one great big family together; we have the best of relationships." About Nelson Mandela, he said, "When Mandela goes it will be a moment when all South Africans put away their political differences, will take hands, and will together honour maybe the biggest known South African that has ever lived."[28]

Upon hearing of the death of Mandela, de Klerk said: "He was a great unifier and a very, very special man in this regard beyond everything else he did. This emphasis on reconciliation was his biggest legacy."[29]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Changing the Course of History Description of a March 2011 lecture in Walnut Creek, California
  2. ^ Lugan, Bernard (1996). Ces Français qui ont fait l'Afrique du Sud (The French People Who Made South Africa). Bartillat. ISBN 2-84100-086-9. 
  3. ^ Sapa-dpa (9 July 2010). "'Diplomatic' FW to cheer for Dutch". Sunday Times (Johannesburg). Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  4. ^ "Frederik en Marike de Klerk vinden hun wortels in Zeeland". Trouw. 13 November 1995. Retrieved 13 February 2011. 
  5. ^ FW de Klerk Reveals Colourful Ancestry
  6. ^ Sharon Marshall. "What's in a (South African) name? –". Southafrica.info. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  7. ^ Johannes (Jan) de Klerk | South African History Online
  8. ^ A. Kamsteeg, E. Van Dijk, F.W. de Klerk, man of the moment. 1990
  9. ^ "Die familie van Rooy in Suid-Afrika". Vanrooy.org.za. 23 July 1939. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  10. ^ J. Ball, F.W. de Klerk: the man in his time. 1991
  11. ^ Johnson, Anthony. "Frederik Willem de Klerk: a conservative revolutionary." UNESCO Courier (November 1995): 22(2). Expanded Academic ASAP. Thomson Gale. Brandeis University. 12 March 2007. Thomson Gale Document Number:A17963676
  12. ^ Abrams, Irwin, Nobelstiftelsen. Peace 1991–1995, 1999. Page 71.
  13. ^ Sampson, Anthony; John Battersby (2011). Mandela – The authorised biography. HarperPress. pp. 439–40, 442–4, 478, 485, 511. ISBN 978-0-00-743797-9. 
  14. ^ "Country Overviews: South Africa: Nuclear Chronology". NTI. Retrieved 29 June 2009. [dead link]
  15. ^ Gold, Emily. (28 March 1997). Ethical controversy forces de Klerk to decline honor. Yale Herald, 23. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  16. ^ "Ex-wife of de Klerk Murdered: S. African Police". People's Daily. 6 December 2001. Retrieved 18 April 2006. 
  17. ^ Crawford-Browne, Terry. "A question of priorities". Peace News Issue 2442. Retrieved 18 April 2006. 
  18. ^ Location Settings. "FW baulked at Marike's book". News24. Retrieved 11 December 2013. 
  19. ^ "HBO History Makers Series: Frederik Willem de Klerk". 
  20. ^ "News – Politics: de Klerk sanguine about SA". Independent Online. South Africa. Retrieved 29 June 2009. 
  21. ^ "FW undergoes tumour surgery". 3 June 2006. Retrieved 9 June 2006. 
  22. ^ "FW de Klerk 'stable'". 9 June 2006. Retrieved 9 June 2006. 
  23. ^ "FW to have tracheotomy". 13 June 2006. Retrieved 13 June 2006. 
  24. ^ "FW de Klerk Foundation Website – Speeches". 11 September 2006. Archived from the original on 22 August 2006. Retrieved 11 September 2006. 
  25. ^ a b de Klerk, CNN World Africa, 21 December 2006.
  26. ^ "Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China; Press Release: H.E Young Sam, Kim, Former President of the Republic of Korea and his delegation arrived in Taiwan". Mofa.gov.tw. 25 January 2007. Retrieved 29 June 2009. 
  27. ^ "News – Election 2009: 'Zuma will confound the prophets of doom'". Independent Online. South Africa. Retrieved 29 June 2009. 
  28. ^ Interview by Stephen Sackur on Hardtalk, broadcast on BBC World Service 18 & 19 April 2012.
  29. ^ "Eyewitness News: De Klerk: Mandela united SA". Ewn.co.za. 6 December 2013. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Pieter Willem Botha
State President of South Africa
1989–1994
Succeeded by
Nelson Mandela
as President of South Africa
New title Deputy President of South Africa
1994–1996
Served alongside: Thabo Mbeki
Succeeded by
Thabo Mbeki