FW de Klerk


I was hoping he’d last till next year so DI would have to deal with this obit! Former South African leader FW de Klerk has died aged 85 after a battle with mesothelioma. De Klerk was a minister and leader in the apartheid government who went onto win the Nobel Peace Prize, a juxtaposition which summed up the contrarian aspects of his life which led to him being mourned and reviled in equal conflicted measure in his homeland. As a member of the National Party, he was party to the resistance to desegregation enacted by Botha’s government. He was also infamously corrupt. Despite all of this, he was the man who freed Nelson Mandela from jail, he was the man who ended the ban on the ANC, and he was the man who ended the system of apartheid in South Africa. You needed one of the ruling class to have a Damascus like conversion against the system in South Africa, and de Klerk was that man when no one else wanted to be it.

De Klerk introduced universal suffrage in time for the 1994 South African elections and saw Nelson Mandela elected to the Presidency in a landslide. He and de Klerk worked together for a time but it was a fractious relationship. De Klerk’s reputation was then badly hurt by his role during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, when he claimed to have seen no evil and heard no evil about the atrocities committed by the Vlakplaas commanders, or even of a bombing he was meant to have been told about personally by Botha himself. For the rest of his life he wore the two hats of being a prickly friend of Mandela’s and attempting to whitewash his own role in apartheid. Despite that, sometimes people can be deeply flawed individuals but rise to the occasion when needed. De Klerk supported apartheid for decades, but when he became President, he dismantled the entire system of apartheid within one year, and released Nelson Mandela from his life imprisonment. It was that for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize, and which the world press has led with. Desmond Tutu called him an astonishing man and I think for bad but mostly for good we can leave it there. He was picked by three teams: Dirt Nappers, Ruling the Afterlife and Nobel Notables.

FW de Klerk
18 March 1936 – 11 November 2021
3 teams