Written by By Staff Writer
Former South African President FW de Klerk has died at the age of 85, the country’s presidency said.
He served as a politician in his country’s first multi-racial, democratically elected government in 1994.
De Klerk and ex-wife FW Botha signed a landmark agreement the year before to negotiate South Africa’s first democratic elections, which saw the end of apartheid. The name “Nelson Mandela” was then enshrined in the constitution as a symbol of national unity.
Madiba, as Nelson Mandela was affectionately known, assumed the presidency after the elections and served from 1994 to 1999.
De Klerk’s transition to a more public role after his retirement was accompanied by tension within his family, with son Arthur, who died in 2004, becoming a cause of controversy after posting racist comments on social media.
The government of President Cyril Ramaphosa — which took office in February after the death of President Jacob Zuma — paid tribute to De Klerk on its official website.
“Since 1994 FW de Klerk has been a pillar of support for the development of democracy in our country, and his leadership continues to inspire us today,” Ramaphosa said.
Nelson Mandela’s son Makgatho arrives for the announcement of the 2018 National Honors
“His retirement was a period that tested him in a number of ways — yet he never faltered in his responsibility to serve the country. For the love of the country, he prepared his grounds to step back. And finally, with the passing of his father, he has reached the end of his journey.”
CNN’s Nic Robertson reports from Cape Town on what role the country’s former president FW de Klerk played during the life of Nelson Mandela, which helped forge an inclusive, tolerant South Africa
South Africa remains divided
However, despite decades of multi-racial reconciliation, the post-apartheid South Africa remains deeply divided.
The 2017 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, which is currently hosted in Johannesburg by retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, featured an impassioned response from a then-newly-appointed black cabinet minister, Ava Luthuli, who said the former president “was the anointing authority in our lives.”
She said Mandela was “a great destroyer of divisions and turmoil, the father of our country. He made us realize the true image of humanity.”