President Cyril Ramaphosa says FW de Klerk will be remembered for his role in ushering in democracy

President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that after receiving the news of the “sad passing” of apartheid’s last president FW de Klerk he sent his and the government’s condolences to de Klerk’s children and family.

De Klerk died on Thursday morning following a struggle with cancer.

“We are saddened that FW de Klerk has passed away,” Ramaphosa said, explaining that de Klerk had played a key role in ushering in democracy in South Africa.

Ramaphosa further said that de Klerk had led a party – the National Party – which was largely discredited for the role it had played with enforcing apartheid.

De Klerk, Ramaphosa added, should be praised for having stepped away from the line pursued by his party for decades when it enforced apartheid while in government.

“And we will remember him for that,” Ramaphosa said, acknowledging, however, that apartheid had wreaked havoc on the lives of millions of South Africans.

Ramaphosa said as a “human being” condolences should be sent to the de Klerk family and that the former apartheid era president should be allowed to rest considering that he had been unwell.

The government will wait to hear from de Klerk’s family and his foundation on the funeral arrangements, Ramaphosa said, adding that the government is ready to work with the family and the foundation on de Klerk’s funeral.

Meanwhile, the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has said that it “rejects any possible declaration of a state funeral” for de Klerk “even though the president has not made an announcement in that regard yet”.

“ANCYL KZN advises the state president, Mr Ramaphosa, not to even think of giving an apartheid activist what is not due to him.

“Frederik Willem De Klerk presided over an apartheid government between 1989 and 1994 which embraced white supremacy. ANCYL KZN strongly avers that affording state funeral to a person who presided over a system which was declared by the United Nations as a crime against humanity would be an insult not only to the taxpayers but equally to the principles and values of our democracy.

“ANCYL KZN remains loyal to the objective of the ANC to build a non-racial, non-sexist, united, and democratic society, however such loyalty can not be a justification for erasing some historical events which were detrimental to black people.  It goes without alleging that Frederik Willmen De Klerk was an apartheid denialist: In 2020 he made a contentious verbal statement that apartheid could not be compared with genocide and that more people died because of “black-on-black violence,” the league said in a statement.

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President emeritus of the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi has also extended his “deepest condolences” following de Klerk’s death.

“This is a painful moment, not only for his family, but our entire nation. We have lost a champion of democratic principles and constitutionalism who served South Africa long after his retirement from governance,” Buthelezi said.

Read Buthelezi’s full statement here.

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