Frederick Willem de Clerk Photo: Weebly

South Africa’s last white president F.W. de Klerk, died on Thursday aged 85. Frederik Willem de Klerk, a trained attorney at Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education lawyer, was born in Mayfair, Johannesburg on March 18, 1936. He stunned the world when he scrapped apartheid and negotiated a peaceful transfer of power to a Black-led government with Nelson Mandela at its helm.

“Former President FW de Klerk died peacefully at his home in Fresnaye earlier this morning following his struggle against mesothelioma cancer,” a statement from his foundation said. Mesothelioma cancer affects the tissue lining the lungs.

He opened the way for an end to more than four decades of apartheid with a speech to parliament on Feb. 2, 1990, which set free the African National Congress (ANC) to engage in political activities and announced the release of its leader after 27 years behind bars. “Allow me in this last message to share with you the fact that since the early ’80s, my views changed completely. It was as if I had a conversion and in my heart of hearts, realized that apartheid was wrong.” Said Mr. F.W. de Klerk in a video released by his foundation hours after his death.

In 1993 Frederik Willem de Klerk shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela for their joint efforts at remaking the country. After retiring from politics in 1997, he headed the F.W. de Klerk Foundation, devoted to working for peace in multi-cultural societies.