South African apartheid-era president FW de Klerk is diagnosed with cancer

  • Frederik Willem de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president, has cancer 
  • His foundation announced the news Friday, a day after his 85th birthday 
  • His heath is not in ‘immediate’ danger and he is undergoing treatment
  • De Klerk released Mandela from jail and helped oversee South Africa’s transition to democracy for which he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993

South Africa’s last white president Frederik Willem de Klerk has been diagnosed with cancer, his charitable foundation has announced. 

De Klerk, who is known by his initials FW and turned 85 on Thursday, is suffering from mesothelioma, a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs.

The FW de Klerk foundation said there is no ‘immediate threat’ to his health and they are hopeful that treatment will be a success.

Frederik Willem de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president and who oversaw the end of apartheid, has been diagnosed with cancer a day after his 85th birthday

Born in 1936 in Johannesburg in what was then a country under strict white-minority rule, De Klerk first trained as a lawyer before joining the ruling National Party in 1972.

First as a politician and then as a minister, De Klerk supported apartheid-era policies which privileged white South Africans and segregated the black majority.

When party leader P. W. Botha resigned in 1989, De Klerk succeeded him and began a series of reforms aimed at dismantling apartheid and granting everyone a vote.

In 1990, he was the one who released Nelson Mandela from jail and then entered into negotiations with him about transitioning the country to democracy.

In 1993, he publicly apologised for the effects of apartheid though did not apologise for the system itself.

That same year, he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Nelson Mandela for his participation in the peace process.

The following year, South Africa’s first multi-racial election was held and when Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress party emerged victorious, De Klerk oversaw the peacful transition of power.

He then took up a position as Mandela’s deputy and served alongside him until 1996, resigning from frontline politics the following year. 

However, De Klerk’s nomination for the Peace Prize remains controversial almost three decades after apartheid ended. 

While he was president, South Africa’s security forces engaged in widespread human rights abuses against black liberation groups, including fomenting ethnic violence between the Xhosa and Zulu.

De Klerk was later forced to deny sanctioning such actions. 

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