Former South African president and Nobel Peace prize laurate F. W. de Klerk delivers a speech during the F. W. de Klerk Foundation Conference, on February 2, 2015, in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo credit:NARDUS ENGELBRECHT/AFP/Getty Images)
CNN  — 

Here’s a quick look at the life of former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize winner, FW de Klerk.


Birth date: March 18, 1936

Death date: November 11, 2021

Birth place: Johannesburg, South Africa

Birth name: Frederik Willem de Klerk

Father: Johannes de Klerk, politician

Mother: Corrie (Coetzer) de Klerk

Marriages: Elita (Georgiades) de Klerk (November 1998-November 11, 2021, his death); Marike (Willemse) de Klerk (April 1969-October 1998, divorced)

Children: Adopted with Marike Willemse: Jan (son), Willem, and Susan

Education: Potchefstroom University, BA and LLB, 1958

Other Facts

De Klerk grew up in a family of prominent Afrikaner politicians.

Was a member of the National Party (NP), a party made up of Afrikaners and English-speaking Whites (The NP did have some non-White members in the 1980s). The National Party supported White rule and apartheid until the 1990s.


1961-1972 - Practices law in Vereeniging.

1972 - Is elected to Parliament as a member of the National Party.

1978-1985 - Holds various ministerial posts, including minister of posts and telecommunications; sports and recreation; mines, energy and environmental planning; and internal affairs.

1982-1989 - National Party Leader in the Transvaal province.

1984-1989 - Serves as minister of national education and planning.

December 1, 1986 - Becomes leader of the South African House of Assembly.

February 2, 1989 - Is elected national leader of the National Party.

September 15, 1989 - Sworn in as president of South Africa.

February 2, 1990 - In his first speech before the South African Parliament, announces that he will legalize the African National Congress and will soon free Nelson Mandela. Mandela is freed within weeks.

October 15, 1993 - Wins the Nobel Peace Prize, shared with Mandela.

November 17, 1993 - De Klerk and other leaders ratify a new constitution, which ends the apartheid system.

December 10, 1993 - Receives the Nobel Peace Prize in a ceremony in Oslo.

May 1994 - De Klerk’s National Party loses to Mandela’s African National Congress in South Africa’s first multi-racial, fully democratic elections. Takes a deputy position in the new government through 1996.

1997 - Resigns from head of the National Party and retires from politics.

December 2001 - De Klerk’s first wife, Marike, is murdered. A security guard is later convicted of her murder.

2004 - Serves on the South African delegation that helps South Africa land the 2010 World Cup.

June 2006 - Is hospitalized for respiratory complications after colon cancer surgery.

May 2012 - In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, de Klerk said he disapproves of the effects of apartheid, but not the concept of a ‘separate but equal’ nation state. Later, de Klerk clarified his position calling apartheid “morally unjustifiable.”

July 2, 2013 - Is hospitalized to have a pacemaker installed.

October 29, 2018 - According to the FW de Klerk Foundation, is discharged from a hospital following recovery from a lung ailment.

February 17, 2020 - The FW de Klerk Foundation issues an apology after de Klerk claimed that apartheid was not a crime against humanity during an interview with South African public broadcaster SABC.

November 11, 2021 - Passes away at the age of 85 from mesothelioma cancer.