Frederik Willem de Klerk (born 18 March 1936), often known as F. W. de Klerk, is the former seventh and last State President of apartheid-era South Africa, serving from September 1989 to May 1994. De Klerk was also leader of the National Party (which later became the New National Party) from February 1989 to September 1997.
De Klerk is best known for engineering the end of apartheid, South Africa's racial segregation policy, and supporting the transformation of South Africa into a multi-racial democracy by entering into the negotiations that resulted in all citizens, including the country's black majority, having equal voting and other rights. He won Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize in 1991, Prince of Asturias Awards in 1992 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 along with Nelson Mandela for his role in the ending of apartheid.
FW de Klerk was one of the main architects of South Africa's constitutional democracy. During his presidency (1989-1994) he played a central role in initiating and managing the transformation process that helped to resolve centuries of inter-community conflict and create a basis for peace between South Africa’s many and varied communities.
Frederik Willem de Klerk was born in Johannesburg on 18 March 1936, the son of Senator Jan De Klerk, a senior Cabinet Minister. His school years were spent mainly in Krugersdorp, where he matriculated at Monument High School. He attended the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education and graduated in 1958 with BA and LLB degrees (cum laude). During his university years he was actively involved in student affairs.
Mr De Klerk was elected leader of the National Party in the Transvaal in March 1982 and leader of the National Party on 2 February 1989. On 15 August 1989, after the resignation of President P W Botha, Mr De Klerk became Acting State President, and after the general election of 6 September, was inaugurated as State President on 20 September 1989. Mr De Klerk served as State President until President Nelson Mandela’s inauguration on 10 May 1994. During this period he initiated and presided over the inclusive negotiations that led to the dismantling of apartheid and the adoption of South Africa’s first fully democratic constitution in December 1993.
After leading the National Party to the second place in South Africa’s first fully representative general election of 27 April 1994, Mr De Klerk was inaugurated as one of South Africa’s two Executive Deputy Presidents. He held this post until June 1996 when his Party withdrew from the Government of National Unity. From then until his retirement from active politics on 9 September 1997, Mr De Klerk was the Leader of the Official Opposition.
In January 2000 Mr De Klerk published his autobiography 'The Last Trek – a New Beginning' and the same year established the FW de Klerk Foundation. He makes numerous speeches around the world and actively participates as an elder statesman in international conferences on the promotion of harmonious relations in multi-communal societies, the future of Africa and South Africa and the challenges facing the world during the new millennium.
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