Marike de Klerk

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Marike de Klerk
First Lady of South Africa
In office
15 August 1989 – 10 May 1994
Preceded by Anna Elizabeth Botha
Succeeded by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela
Personal details
Born (1941-11-17)17 November 1941
Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa
Died 4 December 2001(2001-12-04) (aged 60)
Cape Town, South Africa
Nationality South African
Political party National Party
Height 174 cm (5 ft 9 in)
Spouse(s) Frederik Willem de Klerk (1959 – 1996)
Children Jan, Willem, Susan
Alma mater Potchefstroom University
Religion Dutch Reformed Church

Marike de Klerk (17 November 1941 – 4 December 2001) was the First Lady of South Africa, as the wife of State President Frederik Willem de Klerk, from 1989 to 1994. She was also a politician of the former governing National Party in her own right. She was murdered in her Cape Town home in 2001.


Personal life[edit]

Marike was born into an upper-middle class Afrikaans family in Pretoria. Her father, Wilhelm Willemse, was an academic and writer. He was Professor of Social Pathology and Psychology at University of Pretoria.

Marike met her future husband, F. W. de Klerk, at Potchefstroom University (where she was studying for a degree in commerce). The couple later married and adopted[citation needed] three children together; Jan, Willem, and Susan.

In 1983 Marike came under fire over comments she made about the Coloured community: 'You know, they are a negative group ... a non-person. They are the people that were left after the nations were sorted out. They are the rest,'.[1]

In 1991 she became embroiled in a personal drama when the South African press revealed that her son, Willem was in an 18-month-long relationship with a coloured woman, Erica Adams. Adams was also from a political background, her father being a politician for the Labor Party.[2] 'Willem`s romance with Erica upsets Marike' was the headline published by the Sunday Times. [3] Willem was reportedly under pressure from his mother to end the inter-racial romance, the couple ended their engagement in 1992 and Willem married another woman the following year.[4]

Marike was later unhappy with housing arrangements during South Africa's transition to democracy. It was originally intended that after the election in 1994, she and the president would stay in the Libertas home and Nelson Mandela would take up residence in another home known as the Presidency. Mandela later said that he was under pressure from his political party, the ANC to take up residence at Libertas. Therefore, the de Klerks would instead move to the Presidency. Mandela then told the de Klerks that senior colleagues wanted to use the Presidency for other uses. Therefore, they moved into Overvaal, the former home of Transvaal's administrators. Overvaal needed substantial refurbishing and Marike was angry that Mandela carried out a personal inspection to decide what the home needed, costs that the public works department would meet. FW de Klerk later said: "She was deeply distressed by all the chopping and changing which she interpreted as a calculated attempt by Mandela himself to humiliate us... This latest humiliation became too much for her to swallow. She became very critical of Mandela and did not hesitate to voice her criticism." The de Klerks later attended Mandela's inauguration as president at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Melanie Verwoerd would later recount that Marike was the only person sitting in the packed public gallery as Mandela entered the room and those around her rose and clapped. One MP implored the former first lady to acknowledge the occasion: 'Get up Marike, you are rude!' Marike remained seated and glared at the MP.[5]

In 1994 FW de Klerk began an affair with Elita Georgiades, the wife of Tony Georgiades, a Greek shipping tycoon who had allegedly given de Klerk and the National Party financial support. FW and Marike's marriage ended in 1996 with FW announcing on Valentine's Day that he intended to divorce his wife of 37 years.[6] Marike was opposed to the divorce:'If you change your mind, I'll forgive everything - up to 70 times seven.' However FW replied: 'I'm certain about my decision. Stop hoping.'[7] F. W. de Klerk married Georgiades a week after his divorce to Marike was official.

In 2000 she faced further emotional upheaval when her relationship with her fiance and businessman Johan Koekemoer, collapsed. When the media revealed that he was facing impending bankruptcy, Marike de Klerk defended her fiance, but soon after he faced a nervous breakdown and checked into a Pretoria clinic. In the later years of her life, she battled depression.


During her husband's presidency, Marike was the leader of the National Party's women's wing.[8]

She also founded the Women's Outreach Foundation (WOF), an organisation that focused on the upliftment of rural women.[9] In 1990 de Klerk called for women to play a more active role in the political process.[9] In 1993, she was awarded the Woman for Peace Award in Geneva, Switzerland for promoting the well being and development of rural women.

In 1994 de Klerk and her encourage travelled to the United States for a tour of new educational projects in Los Angeles designed to interest African-Americans in science.[10]

The WOF was frequently in the news in the 1990s for criticising corruption among ANC leaders. The war of words between the ruling party and the former first lady escalated when the party dismissed her as "a bitter person unable to come to terms with the fact that she is an ex-first lady of this country."[1]

In 1998 de Klerk published her autobiography, A Journey Through Summer and Winter[11] in which she explored her marriage of 39 years with FW de Klerk. The book later earned some notoriety after it emerged that FW had censored a chapter that deals with her heartbreak after discovering her husband's affair with Elita Georgiades.[12][13] Later de Klerk published A Place Where the Sun Shines Again where she offered guidance to women facing divorce later in life.


On 4 December 2001, Marike de Klerk was murdered at her Dolphin Beach apartment in Blouberg, Cape Town. It was originally reported that the former first lady had taken her own life.[14] Her killer, Luyanda Mboniswa worked as a security guard in the luxury secure complex where Marike was living.

Mbowisa violently gripped de Klerk's neck breaking several bones in her throat and causing a blood vessel to burst in her eye. A steak knife was found embedded in her back and she also suffered several wounds to the head.[1] Mbowisa was acquitted of a rape charge but a pathologist was not able to rule out penetration.[15]

In May 2003 Mboniswa was convicted of her murder.[16] Winnie Madikizela-Mandela attended Marike's funeral rather than the funeral of ANC stalwart, Joe Modise "As a woman, I can identify with the exhaustion of her emotional resources in shaping her former husband's career,".[17] Her former husband, FW de Klerk released a statement: "I have learned with great shock and sorrow of the circumstances of the tragic death of my former wife Marike."

De Klerk bequeathed her R2 million estate and properties to her children.[18]


  1. ^ a b c How South Africa's former first lady met a violent, lonely and bitter end The Guardian. 6 December 2001
  2. ^ In de Klerk's Family, Reports of Interracial Romance New York Times. 11 January 1991
  3. ^ Young De Klerk`s Love Life Is News Chicago Tribune. 14 January 1991
  4. ^ De Klerk son weds white South African The Independent. 10 October 1993
  5. ^ Verwoerd, Melanie. The Verwoerd who Toyi-Toyied. Tafelberg. 2013
  6. ^ Part of a wider split The Independent. 18 February 1998
  7. ^ Profile: Marike de Klerk. BBC News. 5 December 2001
  8. ^ The danger of gun control in South Africa 4 November 2014
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ S. Africans Tour Black Life in L.A. : Communities: Marike de Klerk, wife of nation's former leader, and her entourage visit school that aims to interest African Americans in science Los Angeles Times. 5 November 1994
  11. ^ Maartens 1998.
  12. ^ Extreme makeover SA: The reinvention of FW Daily Maverick. 27 July 2012
  13. ^ Lukas Meyer (3 October 2010). "FW baulked at Marike's book". News24. Retrieved 2014-10-12. 
  14. ^ Mystery surrounds Marike de Klerk's death. News 24. December 4 2011
  15. ^ Grisly details of Marike de Klerk's murder Mail and Guardian. 1 January 2000
  16. ^ "De Klerk killer 'gets life'". BBC News. 15 May 2003. Retrieved 2014-10-12. 
  17. ^ She never showed anger Beeld. 9 December 2001
  18. ^ Marike's millions go to kids News 24. 4 January 2002

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