FW de Klerk: Former South African president dies aged 85

Image copyright Reuters Image caption De Klerk was among the first leaders to offer condolences to Mandela upon his release

Former South African president FW de Klerk has died aged 85.

Mr de Klerk became a household name in South Africa, after serving as the first black president from 1990 to 1994.

He was the architect of the country’s transition to democracy after the end of white minority rule.

Mr de Klerk and his supporters continued the process of granting black South Africans a vote – something the opposition accused him of not implementing.

“The president was 85. His family is deeply shocked and devastated,” his lawyer, Arie Dekker, told Reuters news agency.

Profile: FW de Klerk

The interior minister at the time of the lifting of international sanctions, Mr de Klerk is credited with successfully negotiating a peaceful end to apartheid.

Image copyright AFP Image caption He would face criticism that the powers of his coalition were not properly enjoyed by the people

His intention was to realise democracy first, and then overcome the many challenges ahead of him.

His status in Africa is, however, often linked to his decision to drop the country’s apartheid system in 1990.

Walid Kossale, a political analyst from the Institute for Race Relations, told BBC Africa a figure like him is “not easily replaced” for the international community.

“De Klerk negotiated peace and freedom for the people of South Africa without leaving their plight behind,” he said.

Mr de Klerk, who died just two days before his 86th birthday, decided that the African National Congress would lead South Africa after Mandela’s release, Mr Kossale said.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Mr de Klerk’s second five-year term as president was subject to a vote of no confidence

“As for the continuing struggle, he would push for reconciliation and the indivisibility of black and white South Africans, but would not condone the progress of the ruling party over the past years,” he added.

“You just remember the watershed he was not voted in for, but for his role in the end of apartheid.”

Acting president Cyril Ramaphosa – who was also among the first few black leaders in South Africa after the end of apartheid – said Mr de Klerk would be remembered as a statesman who served the people of South Africa for over 30 years.

“He demonstrated that, however difficult the situation, a leader can deliver good governance and positive change for the better,” Mr Ramaphosa said.

Mr de Klerk, who is survived by his wife Jacqueline, is likely to be remembered for his remarkable and personal role in the national liberation movement.

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