BREAKING | Former president FW de Klerk, 85, has died

BREAKING | Former president FW de Klerk, 85, has died

FW de Klerk, the last president of apartheid South Africa and a key actor in the country's transition to democracy, has died.

The FW de Klerk Foundation's spokesperson Dave Steward confirmed his death on Thursday. "The former president died earlier this morning at his home in Fresnaye after his struggle against cancer. He was 85-years-old. He is survived by his wife Elita, two children Susan and Jan, and his grandchildren."

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to announce details of De Klerk's state funeral in due course. 

In a statement on 8 June 2021, the foundation said he was diagnosed with mesothelioma - "a cancer that affects the lining of the lungs" - in March 2021. He was receiving immunotherapy for the illness.

De Klerk was the head of state from September 1989 until May 1994 and became one of the country's two deputy presidents after the first multi-racial, democratic election in April 1994.

The son of a National Party senator and minister, De Klerk entered Parliament in 1972 after training as a lawyer and winning his seat in Vereeniging, in what was then known as Southern Transvaal. He was appointed to the Cabinet of prime minister John Vorster in 1978 and served in various portfolios, including Minister of National Education. De Klerk was also a member of the Broederbond, the secretive Afrikaner organisation then active in politics and society.

He succeeded PW Botha as the leader of the National Party in February 1989 after Botha suffered a stroke and resigned from the party leadership. He became president seven months later after Botha quit the post in anger and the National Party won a whites-only election with a reduced margin.