The ANC has paid tribute to former deputy president and the last president of apartheid South Africa, FW de Klerk, following his death on Thursday after battling cancer, saying he played a key role in the country’s transition to democracy in the 1990s.
While there have been mixed reactions from South Africans on De Klerk’s passing and his legacy, the governing party, in a statement on Thursday evening, emphasised De Klerk’s contribution to the country’s constitutional democracy.
The last man to head the apartheid regime died early on Thursday morning at his home in Fresnaye, Cape Town, at the age of 85.
In March earlier this year, his foundation announced that De Klerk was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is cancer that affects the tissue that lines the lungs. He was undergoing immunotherapy before his death.
ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said De Klerk would be remembered for unbanning all political parties and the unconditional release of all political prisoners, including South Africa’s first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela, who had been incarcerated for 27 years by the apartheid regime.
“Mr De Klerk was invited to serve by the first democratically elected president of the Republic South Africa, president Nelson Mandela as his second deputy president under the government of national unity.
“This came about through the process that came about with a negotiated settlement of the constitutional democratic order,” Mabe said.
“We join the people of South Africa and across the globe in extending our condolences to his family, his foundation, friends and community as they navigate through this difficult period. May his soul rest in peace.”
Ramaphosa sends condolences on de Klerk’s passing
President Cyril Ramaphosa also sent his condolences to De Klerk’s family but didn’t make mention of whether he would be given a state funeral following calls from some South Africans, who’ve argued he doesn’t deserve a state-sponsored funeral.
“I offer my sincerest condolences to his wife, Elita, his children Jan and Susan, and his grandchildren.
“My thoughts are also with Mr De Klerk’s friends and associates and the management and staff of the FW de Klerk Foundation,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.
He commended De Klerk’s role in South Africa’s transition to democracy.
“The then state president De Klerk played a vital role in our transition to democracy in the 1990s, which originated from his first meeting in 1989 with president Nelson Mandela who was a political prisoner at that stage.”
Ramaphosa said De Klerk took “the courageous decision to unban political parties, release political prisoners and enter into negotiations with the liberation movement amid severe pressure to the contrary from many in his political constituency”.
He said De Klerk’s tenure as deputy president was spent dedicating himself to the constitutional imperative of healing the divisions and conflict and placing the long-term future of the country ahead of narrow political interests.