• Death of former President F.W. de Klerk

    From Steve Hayes@21:1/5 to All on Fri Nov 12 08:33:36 2021
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    (CNN)FW de Klerk, the last leader of apartheid-era South Africa who
    shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela after working to end
    racial segregation in the country, has died at 85, his foundation said
    on Thursday.

    De Klerk released Mandela, his subsequent successor, from prison and laboriously negotiated a transition to democracy, ending a
    decades-long segregationist system that kept South Africa's White
    minority in power over the Black majority for generations.

    The two men shared the peace prize in 1993 for their work to end the
    policy, but de Klerk remained a divisive figure in South Africa long
    after he left politics.

    De Klerk died at his home in Fresnaye from mesothelioma cancer, the FW
    de Klerk Foundation said Thursday.

    A deeply conservative politician whose party had long supported
    apartheid, de Klerk surprised his political clan and became an
    unlikely agent of change in South Africa during his five-year rule of
    the country.

    He effectively announced the beginnings of a new country in one
    historic speech at the state opening of Parliament in 1990, revealing
    to a stunned nation that he would free Mandela, legalize
    anti-apartheid groups, end a national state of emergency and negotiate
    to end racial inequality in the country.

    De Klerk's political transformation, sparked by worsening racial
    tensions and the impending possibility of civil war, led him to be
    cast as a "traitor" by some conservative lawmakers.

    It also marked the beginning of lengthy and tense negotiations, during
    which de Klerk and Mandela developed a complex relationship that
    occasionally resembled friendship but more often became strained,
    bitter and adversarial.

    In 1993, de Klerk and other leaders ratified a new constitution that
    formally ended decades of racial segregation in South Africa.

    De Klerk went on to lose South Africa's first multiracial, fully
    democratic election to Mandela, before taking a post in the new

    But after retiring from politics he made a number of conflicting
    comments about the era he helped bring to an end, and he leaves behind
    a complicated legacy in South Africa.

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu paid tribute to his compatriot on Thursday,
    saying he "recognised the moment for change and demonstrated the will
    to act on it."

    "The former President occupied an historic but difficult space in
    South Africa," a statement from Tutu's office said. "Although some
    South Africans found the global recognition of Mr De Klerk hard to
    accept, Mr Mandela, himself, praised him for his courage in seeing the country's political transformation process through."

    Raised into a family of prominent Afrikaner politicians -- his father
    Jan de Klerk was a conservative political heavyweight in the 1960s and
    briefly became acting President in 1975 -- FW de Klerk worked as a
    lawyer before holding a number of ministerial posts as a politician.

    He had been more widely cast as an obstructor than a revolutionary,
    given his lineage and steadfast conservatism.

    But the brutal realities of apartheid had resulted in violence,
    displacement and growing opposition, and de Klerk ultimately
    recognized a change in course was needed.

    He described himself as a "convert" in an interview with CNN in 2012.
    "The goal was separate but equal, but separate but equal failed," he
    added. "We should have gone much earlier with the flow when the winds
    of change blew across Africa."

    De Klerk nonetheless created a complicated legacy both during his time
    in power and after his retirement.

    In the same 2012 interview, de Klerk caused anger by equivocating on
    whether apartheid was a morally repugnant policy. "I can only say that
    in a qualified way ... there were many aspects which are morally
    indefensible," he said.

    Last year, his foundation issued an apology after de Klerk claimed
    that apartheid was not a crime against humanity during an interview
    with South African public broadcaster SABC.

    He told CNN he and Mandela were "close friends" by 2012. "There is no
    animosity left between us. Historically, there was," he said.

    "He still has an aura around him. He's truly a very dignified and a
    very admirable person," de Klerk added, shortly before Mandela's death
    the next year.

    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday that "De Klerk will
    be remembered for his steely courage and realism in doing what was
    manifestly right and leaving South Africa a better country," adding he
    was "saddened" by his death.

    Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin added that "his vision, along with
    Nelson Mandela, moulded a new South Africa."

    CNN's Sarah Dean and Sharon Braithwaite contributed reporting

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