De Klerk: Madiba was my friend

Former president FW de Klerk says he became good friends with Madiba when they both retired.

Former president FW de Klerk says he became good friends with Madiba when they both retired. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Former president and Nobel Peace laureate FW de Klerk on Saturday said after he retired, he became good friends with the late Nelson Mandela.

De Klerk is among those who have sent their condolences following the passing of the 95-year-old former statesman.

Madiba died at his Houghton home in Johannesburg on Thursday evening following a long battle with a recurring lung infection.

Speaking on The Midday Report, de Klerk said, "We ended up being very good friends. [Our relationship] settled down to friendship after both of us retired."

He also recalled the first time he met the former president.

"I first met him on 1 December 1989. He was still a prisoner. He came under the cover of darkness to my office in Tynhuis in Cape Town, which later became his office. It was a wonderful meeting but we did not discuss the political issues, which we knew we would have to negotiate later. My first impression was that he was taller than I expected."

De Klerk did however say he was disappointed with Madiba's first public speech.

"I recall that his first speech was a bit sharp and I was slightly disappointed. I had hoped that the first speech he delivered on the Grand Parade in Cape Town would be more conciliatory than what it was, but I understood also why he had to speak the way he did."

Sunday has been declared a day of prayer and introspection.

The ANC has called on all South Africans to unite and keep Madiba's legacy alive.

Mandela will be laid to rest in Qunu on 15 December.

Several heads of states are expected to arrive in South Africa for the service.