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Sunday, 07 July 2024 19:53

Former apartheid-era president FW de Klerk's son dies.

By Cornelia Le Roux.

File Photo:Participants attend the state memorial service of South Africa's last apartheid president Frederik Willem (FW) de Klerk in Cape Town, South Africa, on Dec. 12, 2021. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday recognized the important role of last apartheid president Frederik Willem (FW) de Klerk in the nation's democratic transition while admitting that the former president's legacy remains "contested" during his state memorial service. (Xinhua/Lyu Tianran).

Jan de Klerk, the son of former apartheid-era president and Nobel Peace prize winner FW de Klerk, has passed away.

Jan was the eldest son of De Klerk who, along with Nelson Mandela and, was one of the pioneering forces of the country's first Government of National Unity (GNU) 30 years ago.

According to FW de Klerk Foundation executive director Christo van der Rheede, Jan died from a sudden heart attack on Friday, 5 July.

Jan de Klerk: 'I think acceptance would be a better word'

Jan was one of De Klerk's three children with his first wife, Marike.

The former SA first lady was brutally murdered in 2001 in her flat in Cape Town by Luyanda Mboniswa who was released on parole on 30 August 2023.

At the time, Netwerk24 reported Jan as saying his mother's death would "remain a sad matter" and that it is easier to accept than forgive.

"We try to carry on. To forgive would be a difficult thing. I think acceptance would be a better word than forgiveness. One just accepts death.

"You can never approve of what he did. You miss your mother because it’s not like she’s gone due to natural causes or cancer.

"I cannot approve or justify this at all. There is no reason that it was ever necessary to go this far. In any case, there is never any reason," he said.

Steering clear of politics

All the former statesman's children steered clear of the political arena with Jan becoming a farmer, Susan a teacher and Willem venturing into public relations.

The 53-year-old Willem died after losing his battle against cancer in 2020.

'The past shouldn’t define us' – Jan de Klerk

Shortly after his father was laid to rest, Jan said that South Africans needed to try and find closure and start building on a future.  

"I knew my father and people would have their opinions on policies and all. But we are here today where we have a Constitution and it is time to start building on a future and stop looking back at the past. The past shouldn't define us," he said. 

FW de Klerk: Unraveling apartheid

De Klerk succeeded PW Botha as president in 1989. His act of realpolitik in announcing sweeping political reform – including the release of his eventual successor, Nelson Mandela – was lauded worldwide.

He started unraveling apartheid by organising the repeal of one racist law after another until Mandela's release in February 1990.

"It's worth mentioning that it was De Klerk who dismantled all the laws underpinning apartheid and he triggered the constitutional negotiations. Without these major events, the South Africa we are working on today would not be possible," Democratic Alliance (DA) federal chairperson Helen Zille said.  

Zille was a journalist at the time when De Klerk was in Cabinet.

In 1993, Mandela and De Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize. The following year, Mandela became the country’s first democratically elected leader.

He served as deputy president under Mandela from 1994 to 1996 in the Government of National Unity. De Klerk died at the age of 85 from cancer.