Biography and Post Political Activities

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18 March 1936

Frederik Willem (FW) de Klerk was born in Johannesburg

1958

Graduated from Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education.

After finishing his studies Mr De Klerk joined a firm of attorneys in Vereeniging that he helped to develop into one of the leading law firms outside South Africa?s major metropolitan areas.

November 1972

Elected as Member of Parliament for Vereeniging

1978

Appointed to the Cabinet.

1981

awarded the South African Decoration for Meritorious Service

6 March 1982

Elected to the key post of Leader of the National Party in the Transvaal.

1 July 1985

Mr De Klerk became Chairman of the Minister?s Council in the House of Assembly.

1 December 1986

He became Leader of the House of Assembly

2 February 1989

the caucus of the National Party chose him as the national Leader of the Party.

15 August 1989

after the resignation of President PW Botha, Mr De Klerk became Acting State President

20 September 1989

Inaugurated as State President

1992

he received the Prix du Courage Internationale (The Prize for Political Courage) and was co-recipient of the UNESCO Houphouet-Boigny Prize. He also was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in Spain.

1993

In July, together with Mr Nelson Mandela, Mr De Klerk received the Philadelphia Peace Prize and on 10 December was the corecipient, also with Nelson Mandela, of the Nobel Prize.

27 April 1994

After leading the National Party to the second place in South Africa’s first fully representative general election, Mr De Klerk was inaugurated on 10 May as one of South Africa’s two Executive Deputy Presidents together with Mr Thabo Mbeki. 

June 1996

withdrew from the Government of National Unity

9 September 1997

retirement from active party politics

1998

FW de Klerk married Elita Georgiadis.

January 1999

Mr De Klerk published his autobiography ?The Last Trek ? a New Beginning?

6 June 1999

FW de Klerk and Dave Steward, the former Director-General of his Office while he was president, established the FW de Klerk Foundation together with one other trustee, Dr Coetzee Bester, a former NP member of Parliament

2002

Awarded the Order of Mapungubwe

2004

together with former leaders in South Africa, the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States founded The Global Leadership Foundation. The GLF has a panel of former leaders from all over the world who provide discreet advice to the leaders of countries experiencing developmental and transitional challenges. It has, so far, provided such assistance to 23 countries.

Between 2005 and 2019

FW de Klerk was a leading participant in World Summits of Nobel Peace Laureates and other international forums. During this period he attended summits in Rome, Paris, Berlin, Hiroshima, Chicago, Warsaw, Barcelona, Bogota and Merida in Mexico. He was also the Honorary Chairman of the Prague Society for International Co-operation in the Czech Republic; a Member of the Assembly of the Parliament of Cultures in Istanbul and was involved with Forum 2000, a think-tank initiated by former President Vaclav Havel and Nobel laureate Eli Wiessel. In addition, he served as an Honorary Member of the Peres Center for Peace?s International Board of Governors and on the advisory board of the Global Panel in Germany.

Following his retirement from party politics FW de Klerk delivered more than two hundred speeches in cities on all six continents on a wide range of topics ? including South Africa?s constitutional transformation, management change, relationships between communities in multicultural societies, international affairs and factors that determine the course of human history.

2019

he wrote another book ?Letters to Nelson Mandela? which was published in French by Debats Publics in Paris.

2021

FW de Klerk was diagnosed with mesothelioma

11 November 2021

After a courageous battle against the disease, he passed away.

Up until the time of his death he lived in Fresnaye, Cape Town. He enjoyed reading, the outdoor life and golf as well as spending time with his family. FW de Klerk is survived by his beloved wife, Elita; by his son Jan, his daughter Susan and by his grandchildren.

CONTROVERSIES

Stars

FW de Klerk was the target of countless baseless attacks during his presidency and throughout his retirement. These attacks centred on the following issues:

  • His relationship with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Although FW de Klerk originally supported the idea of a TRC, he was deeply worried about its unbalanced composition and its clear bias. These misgivings later proved to be well-founded by the manner in which the TRC treated him.
  • Allegations that he knew of and was involved with gross violations of human rights during his period in the cabinet and subsequently while he was president. On 26 July 2007 he dealt in detail with the latest of these assaults on his reputation and speculated on their origin.
  • FW de Klerk was once again bitterly attacked after his death – with allegations that he never made a sincere apology for apartheid, that he had been involved in gross violations of human rights and that he had not initiated reforms from the “goodness of his heart” but because he was forced to do so by the ANC’s armed struggle and sanctions. In an article on 26 November 2021 Dave Steward, Chairman of the Foundation refuted these charges. 
  • His views on apartheid as a crime against humanity. In his statement of 17 February 2020, FW de Klerk acknowledged unambiguously that apartheid was a crime against humanity. In a speech to the Cape Town Press Club on 1 October 2020 he expanded on this question by describing how apartheid had come into being and how his government had abolished it.
  • The “Cradock Four”. Before and after his death, there were allegations that FW de Klerk had somehow or other played a role in the murder of the four Cradock activists in 1986. According to an analysis by the FW de Klerk Foundation FW de Klerk and other civilian ministers played no role whatsoever in this tragic incident.
  • The Boipatong Massacre. Following the Boipatong massacre on 17 June 1992, Nelson Mandela accused FW de Klerk of having been involved in the incident. Subsequently, Archbishop Tutu also accused the former president of having had pre-knowledge of the attack. However, independent investigations, the TRC’s own Amnesty Committee and the court that tried IFP hostel dwellers found that there has been no involvement by the government or by the police.
  • The killing of five teenagers in Umtata on 8 October 1993. The circumstances relating to the tragic deaths of the teenagers were set out in a statement that the FW de Klerk Foundation issued on 19 January 2015.