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Biography of Frederik Willem DE KLERK

South Africa > Politics : Frederik Willem DE KLERK

Frederik Willem DE KLERK
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Born on 18/03/1936 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Frederik  Willem De Klerk (b. March 18,1936),was state president of South Africa from 1989 to 1994. He abruptly pointed his country in a new direction in 1990 by opening negotiations with previously outlawed anti-apartheid organizations.

F W de Klerk was one of the main architects of South Africa's constitutional democracy. During his presidency (1989-1994) he played a central role in initiating and managing the transformation process that helped to resolve centuries of inter-community conflict and create a basis for peace between South Africa’s many and varied communities.

Frederik Willem de Klerk was born in Johannesburg on 18 March 1936, the son of Senator Jan De Klerk, a senior Cabinet Minister. His school years were spent mainly in Krugersdorp, where he matriculated at Monument High School. He attended the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education and graduated in 1958 with BA and LLB degrees (cum laude). During his university years he was actively involved in student affairs.

Mr De Klerk joined a firm of attorneys in Vereeniging that he helped to develop into one of the leading law firms outside South Africa’s major metropolitan areas. At the same time he played a prominent role in numerous community activities. In 1972 he was offered the Chair of Administrative Law at Potchefstroom University, but had to decline because of his decision to enter active politics. In November 1972 he was elected as Member of Parliament for Vereeniging.
In 1978 and shortly after his 42nd birthday, after only five and a half years as a back-bencher, he was appointed to the Cabinet. During the following 11 years he was responsible for the following portfolios consecutively:

    * Posts and Telecommunications and Social Welfare and Pensions;
    * Sport and Recreation;
    * Mining and Environmental Planning;
    * Mineral and Energy Affairs;
    * Internal Affairs, as well as the Public Service, and
    * National Education, (the portfolio that he held when he was elected as State President).

On 1 July 1985 Mr De Klerk became Chairman of the Minister’s Council in the House of Assembly. He became Leader of the House of Assembly on 1 December 1986.

Mr De Klerk was elected leader of the National Party in the Transvaal in March 1982 and leader of the National Party on 2 February 1989. On 15 August 1989, after the resignation of President P W Botha, Mr De Klerk became Acting State President, and after the general election of 6 September, was inaugurated as State President on 20 September 1989. Mr De Klerk served as State President until President Nelson Mandela’s inauguration on 10 May 1994. During this period he initiated and presided over the inclusive negotiations that led to the dismantling of “apartheid” and the adoption of South Africa’s first fully democratic constitution in December 1993.

After leading the National Party to the second place in South Africa’s first fully representative general election of 27 April 1994 Mr De Klerk was inaugurated as one of South Africa’s two Executive Deputy Presidents. He held this post until June 1996 when his Party withdrew from the Government of National Unity. From then until his retirement from active politics in 9 September 1997, Mr De Klerk was the Leader of the Official Opposition.

Mr De Klerk has received numerous national and international honours and honorary doctorates. In 1981 he was awarded the South African Decoration for Meritorious Service.

In 1992, he received the Prix du Courage Internationale (The Prize for Political Courage) and was co-recipient of the UNESCO Houphouet-Boigny Prize. He was also awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize in Spain during the same year. In July 1993, together with Mr Nelson Mandela, Mr De Klerk received the Philadelphia Peace Prize and on 10 December the same year was the co-recipient, also with Nelson Mandela, of the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2002, President Thabo Mbeki bestowed on F W de Klerk and Nelson Mandela the order of Mapungubwe: Gold in honour of their exceptional contribution in the process of peace, national reconciliation and nation building in South Africa.

In January 2000 Mr De Klerk published his autobiography “The Last Trek – a New Beginning” and the same year established the F W de Klerk Foundation. He makes numerous speeches around the world and actively participates as an elder statesman in international conferences on the promotion of harmonious relations in multi-communal societies, the future of Africa and South Africa and the challenges facing the world during the new millennium.

He is also the Honorary Chairman of the Prague Society for International Co-operation in the Czech Republic; a Member of the Assembly of the Parliament of Cultures in Istanbul and plays a substantial role in Forum 2000, a think-tank initiated by former President Vaclav Havel and Nobel laureate Eli Wiessel. In addition, he serves on the advisory boards of the Peres Centre for Peace in Israel and the Global Panel in Germany.

Mr De Klerk has established the Global Leadership Foundation in March 2004, a foundation that is registered in Switzerland with operational headquarters in London. Its objective is to play a constructive role in the promotion of peace, democracy and development. The organisation will help national leaders who face complex economic and political challenges by providing confidential advice, especially but not exclusively in the developing world and emerging markets A number of internationally respected former leaders and experts has joined Mr De Klerk in this new initiative.

Personal life

In 1998, De Klerk and his wife of 38 years Marike divorced and soon after De Klerk married his mistress Elita Georgiades. In 2001, his ex-wife Marike was murdered during a robbery.
Mr De Klerk lives on a farm outside Paarl about 60 kms from Cape Town where he and his wife Elita will soon be producing their own wine. He enjoys reading, the outdoor life and golf.
In 2006 he underwent surgery for a malignant tumour in his colon, he underwent several operations. He has since recovered.

Last update : 06/29/2008

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