In 1990 South Africa's President Frederik Willem de Klerk decided to release Nelson Mandela, leader of the liberation movement, who had been in prison since 1963. Following the release, the two politicians worked together to bring an end to the policy of racial segregation. It was for his participation in this peace process that de Klerk was awarded the Peace Prize in 1993.
When de Klerk took office as President in 1989, no one expected him to play a key part in the termination of apartheid. Both as a lawyer, as a parliamentarian, and as a member of the government he had stood out as a firm upholder of white privilege. But when he realized that the apartheid system was leading to both economic and political bankruptcy, he put himself at the head of a radical change of course. He continued the negotiations with Mandela and the ANC liberation movement, which had begun in secret. They agreed to prepare for a presidential election and to draw up a new constitution with equal voting rights for every population group in the country.
FW de Klerk was born in Johannesburg in 1936. He is the son of Johannes de Klerk (1903-1979) and Hendrina Cornelia de Klerk (1904-2001), who died just four months before the death of his former daughter Marike Willemse and his brother to Wimpie de Klerk (1928-2009). His family, whose name comes from the French surname "Le Clerc," "Le Clercq" or "de Clercq" is of Huguenot origin. He settled in the country in 1686, a few months after the Revocation of the Nantes edict, and participated in various events in the history of Afrikaner. Their ancestors participated in the Grand Trek on the train led by Piet Retief to get rid of the British rule. In 1838, three members of the Klerk family were also killed with Retief in King Kraal of Zulu, Dingane. Later, during the Second Boer War (1899-1902), the grandfather FW of Klerk was captured twice by the British before being a founding member of the National Party in 1914, alongside James Barry Hertzog. According to genealogist Keith Meintjies and confirmed by FW by Klerk, the latter is also in accordance with Krotoa (Eva), a female Khoi, who served as interpreter for the Dutch colonists during the founding of the Colony of the Head.
Member of the Reformed Dutch Church, FW by Klerk, is the youngest son, Jan Klerk, the head of the school and minister with various portfolios (1954-1969) and Senate chairman (1969-1976), the nephew of JG Strijdom, the head of the South African Government 1954 until 1958. His older brother Wimpie de Klerk is a political analyst and co-founder of the Democratic Party in 1989.
High School in Krugersdorp, a suburb of Johannesburg, FW by Klerk has a honors degree from the University of Potchefstroom in 1958. In 1959 he married Marike Willemse (1937-2001), with whom he will raise three children adopted ). The couple, F. W. and Marike de Klerk, divorced in 1998.
During university studies, he joined the National Party and became a member of Broderbond.
A lawyer in Vereeniging, south of Transvaal, refused in 1972 the public law seat at Potchefstroom University to run for general elections.
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