South Africa must reckon with FW de Klerk's legacy - Nelson Mandela Foundation

"FW De Klerk will forever be linked to Nelson Mandela in the annals of South African history," The Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement on Thursday.

FILE: Nelson Mandela, African National Congress (ANC) President (left) and South Africa's last apartheid President Frederik de Klerk (right), shake hands on 10 December 1993 in Oslo after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prizes. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The Nelson Mandela Foundation said on Thursday that FW de Klerk's legacy was an uneven one.

The apartheid South Africa's former president passed away on Thursday morning following a struggle with cancer.

"De Klerk’s legacy is a big one. It is also an uneven one, something South Africans are called to reckon with in this moment," the statement said.

It also said it was sad to hear of his death, sending condolences to his wife Elita and their family.

"De Klerk will forever be linked to [former President] Nelson Mandela in the annals of South African history. As head of state, he oversaw the release of Madiba from prison on 11 February 1990. In 1993, they were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace prize for ushering in a negotiated settlement that led to South Africa holding its first democratic election in 1994," the statement continued.

There was little chemistry between the two men and there were some serious flare-ups when De Klerk served in Mandela’s Cabinet as deputy president, alongside Thabo Mbeki. De Klerk in 1996 led the National Party out of the government of national unity, to become the official opposition. In 1997 he quit politics.

The statement included comments Mandela made at De Klerk’s 70th birthday celebrations.

“You and I have had our differences, some of them very public. Our basic respect for one another has, however, never diminished. And it was that respect for the other irrespective of all differences that made it possible for us, and our organisations, to work together and to negotiate that historic compromise that the world marvelled at. If we two old, or ageing, men have any lessons for our country and for the world, it is that solutions to conflicts can only be found if adversaries are fundamentally prepared to accept the integrity of one other.”

GALLERY: FW de Klerk - SA's last apartheid president through the years