'He took the steps to change South Africa' - political parties mourn FW de Klerk

The ANC, UDM, FF+, GOOD and the DA have sent their condolences to the De Klerk family.

South Africa's last apartheid president FW De Klerk. Picture: Twitter/ @FWdeKlerkFoun.

CAPE TOWN - Condolences streamed in for the former president of apartheid South Africa, FW de Klerk.

He died earlier on Thursday morning at his home in Fresnaye in Cape Town after his struggle against cancer. He was 85-years-old. He was apartheid South Africa's final president and then Nelson Mandela was voted in as the country's first democratic president in 1994.

They both won a Nobel Peace Prize for the transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa.

Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald told Eyewitness News de Klerk was a controversial politician and set in motion the process for a new dispensation in South Africa from 1994.

"He had his supporters and his critics as far as that is concerned. His legacy will be that he took the steps to change South Africa."

Among those paying tribute are African National Congress veteran Pallo Jordan, who told Eyewitness News De Klerk broke the political deadlock that led the country out of centuries of conflict and into an era of negotiation and democracy.

"He played an important role in our transition from apartheid to democracy and insured a peaceful and reconciliatory process. He continued to serve our country after the attainment of democracy. May his soul rest in peace."

United Democratic Movement's president Bantu Holomisa said De Klerk was one of the leaders who saved South Africa from a bloodbath.

"FW de Klerk was pressurised as well internationally and the sanctions were biting on South Africa's economy. But be that as it may, he finally agreed to sit down and power was transferred to us."

At the same time, GOOD Party leader Patricia de Lille also sent her condolences to the De Klerk family.

"De Klerk played an important role in our country’s transition from apartheid to a democracy and ensuring a peaceful and reconciliatory process. He continued to serve our country after we attained our democracy," De Lille said.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance's John Steenhuisen released a statement on his party's Twitter account.

"The DA notes with sadness the passing of former State President and Nobel laureate, FW de Klerk. The DA extends its deepest condolences to the de Klerk family. May they find strength and comfort in this difficult time."

The DA noted also remembered his role in Parliament and in government.

"De Klerk’s contribution to South Africa’s transition to democracy cannot be overstated. His decision, within a year of taking over the presidency from PW Botha in 1989, to unban liberation movements, release Nelson Mandela from prison, lift the ban on political marches and begin the four year negotiation process towards our first democratic election was a watershed moment in our country’s history. De Klerk also took the decision to dismantle the country’s nuclear weapons programme. These things were not considered possible under any of his predecessors."

The party also noted the work he did through his foundation - the FW de Klerk Foundation, saying it "sought to further democracy, accountability and constitutionalism, as well as supporting a number of charities that care for disabled and disadvantaged children."

Inkatha Freedom Party founder Mangosuthu Buthelesi said he had the privilege of working in the government of National Unity with then deputy president de Klerk.

"I respected his commitment to the wellbeing of our country and recognised in him the characteristics of a patriot."

Buthelezi added he was happy that De Klerk got to see South Africa become a democratic country.

"I shall never forget his words upon receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, on 10 December 1993. He spoke about the fundamental change of heart that became the driving force towards a new dispensation. He said, 'It was not a sudden change, but a process - a process of introspection, of soul searching; of repentance; of realisation of the futility of ongoing conflict, of acknowledgement of failed policies and the injustice it brought with it.'"