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Issued by Dave Steward, Chairman Emeritus, on 07/06/2024


It is with a sense of great achievement that the FW de Klerk Foundation celebrates the 25th anniversary of its establishment on 6 June 1999.

The Foundation came into being in offices that FW de Klerk was then renting in the Golden Acre building in Cape Town. Its three trustees included FW de Klerk, Dr Coetzee Bester – a former National Party MP – and myself.  Even at that stage we had a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve: We wanted to support the constitution that FW de Klerk had helped to negotiate and we wanted to promote reconciliation and national unity within our very diverse society.

As is the case with most NGOs we spent the first years raising funds. Our first significant project was the organisation of a number of bush conferences between delegations led by President Mbeki and the leaders of number prominent civil society organisations. The conferences were convened at Shambala, Douw Steyn’s magnificent game lodge in Limpopo Province, on 12 March, 2002; at Intundla, North-East of Pretoria, on 25-26 October, 2002 and at Glenburn Lodge in the Magaliesberg, on 19-20 August, 2005. On each occasion President Mbeki was accompanied by strong ministerial delegations – and on each occasion the meetings were held in a constructive and convivial atmosphere. The Foundation’s delegations used the meetings to express their growing concerns regarding affirmative action, the economy and the right to education in the language of one’s choice.

In 2003, we moved our offices to the Tygerberg Office Park in Panorama.  By 2006 we had raised sufficient funds to launch our Centre for Constitutional Rights – with its first Director, the crusading human rights activist, Adv Paul Hoffman. The Foundation began to participate actively in campaigns to promote and protect constitutional rights through the publication of articles and the organisation of conferences and seminars. In 2008 we helped to achieve the withdrawal of the first Expropriation Bill. Together with Solidarity we launched litigation to secure the rights of “Coloured” employees of the Department of Correctional Services in the Western Cape after their Department had tried to limit their prospects for appointment and promotion in the Western Cape to their 8% share of the national demographics.

We were one of the first organisations to warn civil society about the nature and implication of the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution ideology.

We strongly supported the right of South Africans to education in the language of their choice, particularly at universities in the Western Cape through a conference that we held at Vredenheim in 2011. We also played a leading role in protecting property rights and in opposing expropriation without compensation. In 2019 we took the SA Human Rights Commission to court over its finding that Julius Malema’s statement that he was not “calling for the slaughtering of white people – at least not for now” was not hate speech.

In 2010, The Foundation instituted its annual 2 February Conference – to commemorate FW de Klerk’s speech of 2 February 1990. The same year it established the FW de Klerk Goodwill Award which has annually given recognition to South African individuals and organisations that have promoted goodwill between South Africans. Over the years, the Foundation’s Outreach Programme has channeled more than R 5 million to organisations that care for disadvantaged children.

The Foundation moved to its new offices – an old Edwardian home in the centre of Cape Town – in 2021.

After the passing of FW de Klerk on 11 November 2021, the Foundation adopted two additional goals: The preservation and celebration of the FW de Klerk legacy and the provision of information on (and understanding of) the constitutional transformation of South Africa. We are pursuing these goals through the dissemination of 17 biographical videos on FW de Klerk’s life; the establishment of an FW de Klerk Archive and the institution of an annual FW de Klerk Memorial Lecture.   The Foundation is popularising South Africa’s constitutional transformation process through establishment of the Centre for the Constitutional Transformation of South Africa – with its multimedia exhibition and its offices in Cape Town and its interactive website.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those – donors, staff members, interns and trustees –  who have helped to build and support the Foundation during the past 25 years. I am confident that, under the leadership of Elita de Klerk and Christo van der Rheede, the Foundation will go from strength to strength in the challenging years that lie ahead.