Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation on 05/12/2023


It is difficult to believe that 10 years have now elapsed since the passing of Nelson Mandela. However, his legacy remains as fresh today as it was on the day that he was inaugurated as the first President of our constitutional democracy. 

His leadership was of pivotal importance to South Africa’s relatively peaceful transition from minority rule to our new inclusive democracy. His greatest contributions were his commitment to national reconciliation; his role in the genesis of the 1996 constitution; and his principled adherence to the Constitution – even when it did not accord with his own interests. 

His legacy is now questioned by young radicals who have never been called upon to share the tribulations and make the immense sacrifices that Nelson Mandela made in his long walk to freedom. 

They complain about South Africa’s manifest failure to realise the dreams that Mandela articulated and blame the Constitution, and his commitment to reconciliation, for the country’s failure. On the contrary, it has been the failure of South Africa’s leaders to implement the Constitution, as it was negotiated, and to continue his commitment to reconciliation, that have caused the crises with which we now wrestle. 

Now, and on 10 December (the 30th anniversary of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk) we should remember the indispensable contribution that he made to the birth of our new nation.

Image © Themba Hadebe/AP