Ramaphosa: De Klerk played key role in ushering in democracy in SA

President Cyril Ramaphosa said that South Africa's last apartheid president FW de Klerk took the courageous decision to unban political parties and to release political prisoners.

FILE: South African President Nelson Mandela (C) and former apartheid president and deputy president FW De Klerk (R) shake hands as second deputy president Thabo Mbeki (L) looks on, after the inaugural sitting of South Africa's first Parliament in Cape Town on 9 May 1994. Picture: ALEXANDER JOE/AFP

CAPE TOWN - South Africans have been remembering former apartheid President FW De Klerk, with some paying tribute while others remembered the role he played in bringing apartheid to an end.

He passed away at his home in Cape Town on Thursday after struggling against cancer.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said that De Klerk played a vital role in South Africa’s transition to democracy.

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He said that De Klerk took the courageous decision to unban political parties and to release political prisoners.

"He did play a key role in ushering in democracy in our country and was a leader of a party that was largely discredited but he had the courage to step away and we will remember him for that," President Ramaphosa said.

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen said that after taking over, De Klerk started a four-year negotiation process towards the first democratic election, which was a watershed moment.

"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," Steenhuisen said.

However, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said that De Klerk - who denied that apartheid was a crime against humanity - died with no honour.

The party said that he was the president of an undemocratic and racist society.

The EFF has also called for De Klerk not to be given a state funeral, saying that it would protest if necessary.

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