South Africa’s last white president Frederik Willem (FW) de Klerk has died at his home in Cape Town, the FW de Klerk Foundation says.
“Former president FW de Klerk died peacefully at his home in Fresnaye earlier this morning following his struggle against mesothelioma cancer,” the statement said on Thursday (local time).
Mr De Klerk, 85, headed South Africa’s white minority government until 1994, when Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress party swept to power.
He was feted globally for his role in scrapping apartheid and shared the Nobel peace prize with Mr Mandela in 1993.
The following year, Mr Mandela won South Africa’s first multiracial elections with his African National Congress.
But Mr de Klerk’s role in the transition to democracy remains highly contested more than 20 years after the end of apartheid.
Many blacks were angered by his failure to curb political violence in the turbulent years leading up to the 1994 multiracial elections, while right-wing white Afrikaners, who had long ruled the country under Mr de Klerk’s National Party, viewed him as a traitor to their cause of white supremacy.
He shared the Nobel prize with Mr Mandela, but his role in the transition to democracy remains highly contested more than 20 years after the end of apartheid.
Mr de Klerk was diagnosed in March with mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the tissue lining the lungs.
“He is survived by his wife Elita, his children Jan and Susan and his grandchildren,” the foundation said, adding that the family would in due course make an announcement regarding funeral arrangements.
Mr De Klerk, who had been treated for a lung ailment called pneumothorax in 2018, stirred up anger in 2020 when he told a national broadcaster that he did not believe apartheid was a crime against humanity, as declared by the United Nations.