The funeral of apartheid president FW de Klerk will be a private family affair not open to the media.
FW de Klerk funeral: A private family affair
In a statement, the FW de Klerk Foundation confirmed the 85-year-old’s “cremation and funeral will take place on Sunday 21 November.”
“It will be a private ceremony for family members and will not be open to media,” the statement concluded.
The announcement comes after widespread pressure from political parties on the government’s involvement in the former apartheid president’s posthumous affairs.
“As a president of apartheid, De Klerk holds no legitimate claim to any title or honour of having led this country… It is for this reason that the EFF calls for De Klerk not to be given a State funeral of any category,” Julius Malema’s EFF wrote in a statement.
FW de Klerk biography, political career, family history
Frederik Willem (FW) 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. After finishing his studies Mr 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 and shortly after his 42nd birthday, after only five and a half years as a back bencher, he was appointed to the Cabinet.
During the following 11 years he was responsible for the following portfolios consecutively:
- Posts and Telecommunications and 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, (the portfolio that he held when he was elected as State President).
On 1 July 1985 Mr 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. Mr De Klerk 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, after the resignation of President PW 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 – together with Mr Thabo Mbeki. 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. Mr 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 Mr Nelson Mandela, Mr De Klerk received the Philadelphia Peace Prize and on 10 December the same year was the co-recipient, also with Nelson Mandela, of the Nobel Peace Prize. In January 1999 Mr De Klerk published his autobiography “The Last Trek – a New Beginning” (Macmillan) and the same year established the FW de Klerk Foundation, which is dedicated to upholding the South African Constitution, promotion of peace in multi-communal societies as well as preservation of FW de Klerk’s presidential heritage and South Africa’s constitutional transformation from apartheid to a non-racial constitutional democracy.
In 2004, Mr De Klerk brought together a number of respected former national leaders to join him as founding members of GLF Global Leadership Foundation, a non-profit organisation that aims to play a constructive role in the promotion of peace, democracy and development in countries across the world. He was also the Honorary Chairman of the Prague Society for International Co-operation in the Czech Republic; a Member of the Assembly of the Parliament of Cultures in Istanbul and was involved with Forum 2000, a think-tank initiated by former President Vaclav Havel and Nobel laureate Eli Wiessel.
In addition, he served as an Honorary Member of the Peres Center for Peace’s International Board of Governors and on the advisory board of the Global Panel in Germany. Throughout Mr De Klerk made numerous speeches around the world and actively participated as an
elder and respected 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.
In 2020 FW de Klerk was diagnosed with mesothelioma – a cancer that attacks the lining of the lungs. After a courageous battle against the disease, he passed away on 11 November 2021. Up until the time of his death he lived in Fresnaye, Cape Town. He enjoyed reading, the outdoor life and golf as well as spending time with his family.
The FW de Klerk biography was drafted by the FW de Klerk Foundation.