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South Africa’s ex-President, FW de Klerk, who freed Mandela dies aged 85

South African former president, FW de Klerk, has died at the age of 85-years-old on Thursday.

The ex-president’s Foundation in a press statement announcing his demise said; “It is with the deepest sadness that the FW de Klerk Foundation must announce that former President FW de Klerk died peacefully at his home in Fresnaye earlier this morning following his struggle against mesothelioma cancer.

“Mr De Klerk was 85 years old. He is survived by his wife Elita, his children Jan and Susan and his grandchildren”.

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FW de Klerk was the nation’s head of state between September 1989 and May 1994.

In 1990 he announced he was releasing anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela after 27 years in prison, leading to multi-party polls in 1994.

FW de Klerk also shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with the first black South African president, Mandela, for helping to negotiate an end to apartheid.

Reacting to his death, the Nelson Mandela Foundation in a press statement said it is “saddened to hear of the passing of F W de Klerk. We send our condolences to his wife Elita and their family.

“De Klerk will forever be linked to Nelson Mandela in the annals of South African history. As head of state, he oversaw the release of Madiba from prison on 11 February 1990. In 1993 they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace prize for ushering in a negotiated settlement that led to South Africa holding its first democratic election in 1994.

“De Klerk also served as deputy president of South Africa in Madiba’s government of national unity until he resigned in 1996.

“Over the years we worked productively with him and the De Klerk Foundation on a number of projects.

“Speaking at De Klerk’s 70th birthday celebrations, Madiba said:

““You and I have had our differences, some of them very public. Our basic respect for one another has, however, never diminished. And it was that respect for the other irrespective of all differences that made it possible for us, and our organisations, to work together and to negotiate that historic compromise that the world marvelled at. If we two old, or ageing, men have any lessons for our country and for the world, it is that solutions to conflicts can only be found if adversaries are fundamentally prepared to accept the integrity of one other.”

“De Klerk’s legacy is a big one. It is also an uneven one, something South Africans are called to reckon with in this moment.

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