Frederik Willem de Klerk | Western Cape Government

Frederik Willem de Klerk

(Western Cape Government)
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.

De Klerk joined a firm of attorneys in Vereeniging that he helped to develop into one of the leading law firms outside South Africa's major metropolitan areas. At the same time, he played a prominent role in numerous community activities. In 1972, he was offered the Chair of Administrative Law at Potchefstroom University, but had to decline because of his decision to enter active politics. In November 1972, he was elected as Member of Parliament for Vereeniging.

In 1978, shortly after his 42nd birthday, and after only five and half years as a back-bencher, he was appointed to the Cabinet. During the following 11 years, he was responsible for a number of portfolios including: posts, telecommunications, social welfare and pensions; sport and recreation; mining and environmental planning; mineral and energy affairs; internal affairs, as well as the public service, and national education.

On 1 July 1985, De Klerk became Chairman of the Minister's Council in the House of Assembly. He became Leader of the House of Assembly on 1 December 1986.

He was elected to the key post of Leader of the National Party in the Transvaal on 6 March 1982. On 2 February 1989, the caucus of the National Party chose him as the national leader of the party.

On 15 August 1989, following the resignation of President P W Botha, De Klerk became Acting State President, and after the general election of 6 September, was inaugurated as State President on 20 September 1989.

On 2 February 1990, De Klerk made several announcements that would drastically change South Africa and accelerate the elimination of apartheid. His decision to release all important political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, and to lift the ban on the African National Congress (ANC), the Pan-African Congress (PAC), and the SA Communist Party (SACP) was met with strong right-wing opposition.

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 Interim 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, he was inaugurated as one of South Africa's two Executive Deputy Presidents. He served in this capacity until the end of June 1996 when his party, under his leadership, decided to withdraw from the Government of National Unity. He was leader of the official opposition until his retirement from active party politics on 9 September 1997.

De Klerk has received numerous national and international honours and honorary doctorates. In 1981, he was awarded the South African Decoration for Meritorious Service. In 1992, he received the Prix du Courage Internationale (The Prize for Political Courage) and was co-recipient of the UNESCO Houphouet-Boigny Prize. He was also awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in Spain during the same year. In July 1993, together with Nelson Mandela, De Klerk received the Philadelphia Peace Prize and, on 10 December that same year, he was the co-recipient, also with Nelson Mandela, of the Nobel Peace Prize.

In January 2000, he established the F W de Klerk Foundation, which is dedicated to the promotion of peace in multi-communal societies.

Information provided by the FW de Klerk Foundation. Additional information retrieved on 28/11/2003 from and from

The content on this page was last updated on 15 March 2014