South Africa’s former president FW de Klerk is dead

FW de Klerk, the former president of South Africa and has died at the age of 85 after a battle with cancer.

A statement from the former president’s FW de Klerk Foundation said that he died peacefully at his home in Cape Town following his struggle against mesothelioma cancer.

Mr de Klerk was head of state between 1989 to 1994. He was the last white person to lead South Africa and a key figure in the transition to democracy.

In 1990, he released Nelson Mandela from prison, leading to historic elections that brought the anti-apartheid leader to power.

Mr de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mr Mandela for helping to negotiate an end to apartheid. But his legacy divided opinion in South Africa.

Mr de Klerk is survived by his wife Elita, his children Jan and Susan and his grandchildren.

The former president was born in March 1936 in Johannesburg. He worked as a lawyer and served in a series of ministerial posts before taking over from PW Botha.

He took over as the head of the National Party in February 1989, and months later becoming president.

In a famous speech to parliament the following year, he announced that he was removing the ban on parties that included Mr Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC).

He also announced that Mr Mandela would be released from prison after 27 years.

His actions helped bring an end to apartheid-era South Africa, and he became one of the country’s two deputy presidents after the multi-party elections in 1994 that saw Mr Mandela become president.

He retired from politics in 1997 saying: “I am resigning because I am convinced it is in the best interest of the party and the country.”

Although the relationship between Mr de Klerk and Mr Mandela was often punctuated by bitter disagreements, the new president described the man he succeeded as someone of great integrity.