South Africa has declared four days of national mourning after the death on November 11 of its last white president, Frederick de Klerk, who remains a controversial figure in the country despite his role in dismantling the apartheid system.
In an unexpected speech to Parliament in February 1990, de Klerk announced the release of the regime’s number one enemy, Nelson Mandela, and the legalisation of his party, the African National Congress (ANC), and other parties fighting the segregationist system, paving the way for the end of white rule and the country’s democratic transition.
A national mourning will be observed from Wednesday evening to Sunday evening, “the national flag will be flown at half-mast as a mark of respect,” announced the office of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
A private funeral is planned for Sunday. An official commemoration will also be held at a date yet to be determined.
FW de Klerk, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela and as South Africa’s last apartheid president oversaw the end of the country’s white minority rule, has died at the age of 85.
De Klerk died after a battle against cancer at his home in the Fresnaye area of Cape Town, a spokesman for the FW de Klerk Foundation confirmed on Thursday.
It was de Klerk who in a speech to South Africa’s Parliament on February 2, 1990, announced that Mandela would be released from prison after 27 years. The announcement electrified a country that for decades had been
scorned and sanctioned by much of the world for its brutal system of racial discrimination known as apartheid.
The death of FW de Klerk, at 85, has generated mixed reactions in South Africa, with some criticising the Nobel Peace Prize winner, whom he received jointly with Mandela in 1993, for never having made a full apology for the crimes of apartheid.
But in a posthumous video, released a few hours after his death, the former president attempts to correct this impression and apologises “unreservedly” for “the pain, suffering, indignity and damage that apartheid inflicted.
By Eric Knight
De Klerk seen here with Mandela… President Ramaphosa has declared 4 days of mourning to his honour