De Klerk: Mandela united SA

The country's last white president says Mandela was a great leader, who led with honour.

Nelson Mandela and South Africa's last apartheid President, FW de Klerk, shake hands on 10 December 1993 in Oslo after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prizes. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Nelson Mandela's greatest accomplishment was to unify South Africa and push for reconciliation between blacks and whites in the post-apartheid era, FW de Klerk, the country's last white president, said on Thursday.

"He was a great unifier and a very, very special man in this regard beyond everything else he did. This emphasis on reconciliation was his biggest legacy," De Klerk said in an interview with CNN after the announcement of Mandela's death.

De Klerk, who released Mandela from prison in 1990 and then negotiated the end of apartheid, called Mandela a "humane" and "compassionate" man who was able to understand the fears of South Africa's white minority in the transition to democracy.

Mandela and De Klerk shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for ending minority white rule and laying the foundations of democracy. De Klerk served as one of two deputy presidents in Mandela's government after the African National Congress won the 1994 elections.