F. W. de Klerk
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Frederik Willem de Klerk (18 March 1936 – 11 November 2021) was a South African politician who served as State President of South Africa from 1989 to 1994 and as Deputy President from 1994 to 1996. As South Africa's last head of state from the era of white-minority rule, he and his government dismantled the apartheid system and introduced universal suffrage. Ideologically a conservative and an economic liberal, he led the National Party from 1989 to 1997.
- I'm a Christian. I'm a South African. I'm an Afrikaner. I'm a lawyer. I love my country, and I think that this country has a great future. In that sense of the word, I`m a practical idealist.
- As quoted in "New S. African Leader`s Reforms Irk Left, Right" (1 January 1990), by Tom Masland, Chicago Tribune
- I'm certain about my decision [to divorce you]. Stop hoping.
- As quoted in "How South Africa's former first lady met a violent, lonely and bitter end" (5 December 2001), by Chris McGreal, The Guardian
- We're not doing what we do because of sanctions. We're doing what we do because we believe it is right.
- As quoted in Freedom in the World: Political Rights & Civil Liberties, 1990-1991 (1991), New York: Freedom House, p. 16
- History has placed a tremendous responsibility on the shoulders of this country's leadership, namely the responsibility of moving our country away from the current course of conflict and confrontation... The hope of millions of South Africans is fixed on us. The future of southern Africa depends on us. We dare not waver or fail.
- Speech to Parliament (February 1990)
- If our old policy, which was so unpopular in many circles, could work, then we would have surely clung to it. But as responsible leaders charged with the government of the country, we came to the conclusion that the policy we had planned could simply not work.
- "Interview with F.W. de Klerk", BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (9 May 1990)
- If we dwell on real or imagined sins of the past, we shall never be able to find one another in the present, nor shall we be able to work together on building the future.
- Speech to the Good-will Foundation (9 March 1991)
- Here at the crossroads of our history, we need to turn our backs on the past.
- Speech to the Congress of the National Party of Natal, Durban (25 September 1992)
- There are powers that are trying to manipulate our country's history by trying to portray it as dark, suppressive and unfair... Yes, we have made mistakes. Yes, we have often sinned and we don't deny this. But that we were evil, malignant and mean–to that we say "no"!
- As quoted in The Citizen (10 October 1992), Johannesburg, South Africa
- Peace does not simply mean the absence of conflict... There can therefore be no real peace without justice or consent... Peace does not fare well where poverty and deprivation reign... It is very significant that there has never been a war between genuine and universal democracies. There have been countless wars between totalitarian and authoritarian states. There have been wars between democracies and dictatorships - most often in defense of democratic values or in response to aggression.
- Nobel Peace Prize speech (10 December 1993)
- Mandela has walked a long road and now stands at the top of the hill. A traveler would sit down and admire the view. But a man of destiny knows that beyond this hill lies another and another. The journey is never complete. As he contemplates the next hill I hold out my hand in friendship and in cooperation. I should like to make clear that I believe that my political task is just beginning. Everything that we have done so far - the four years of difficult and often frustrating negotiations, the problems and the crises - have been simply a preparation for the work that lies ahead. The greatest challenge which we will face in the government of national unity will be to defend and nurture our new constitution. Our greatest task will be to ensure our young and vulnerable democracy will take root and flourish.
- Concession speech (1994), as quoted in "De Klerk: 'My Political Task Is Just Beginning'" (3 May 1994), Reuters
- I apologize in my capacity as leader of the NP to the millions who suffered wrenching disruption of forced removals; who suffered the shame of being arrested for pass law offences; who over the decades suffered the indignities and humiliation of racial discrimination.
The Last Trek: A New Beginning, C-Span (June 1999)
- On The Washington Journal of C-SPAN (11 June 1999)
- Yes, I'm an African, born and bred. My forebears arrived in South Africa in 1688. My later forebears fought the first modern anti-colonial war on the continent of Africa, against Great Britain. I'm an African, through and through, and the fact that I'm white does not detract from my total commitment to my country and through my country, to our continent.
- Nigeria, it's a beautiful country with a great potential and I believe that in that part of the continent, Nigeria, once it sorts out its own problems, have a crucial role to play, like South Africa has in the more southern part of our continent.
- [M]y ideal is that what we should do is to, to also rise above that and to achieve true non-racialism.
- I prefer to live in South Africa because it's a wonderful country; because I've been there for 300 years.
- Racism is a part of a problem, a world problem, which has to be overcome.
- We are struggling with racism, but racism is also alive and well in many other countries. And what we must overcome is racism being the cause of conflict. And what we need to recognize human beings as human beings; to award merit.
- [S]anctions should be reserved, if we think international, for extremely serious situations.
- We have failed to bring justice. We cannot build the future on injustice.
- There are a number of imperfections in the new South Africa where I would have hoped that things would be better, but on balance I think we have basically achieved what we set out to achieve. And if I were to draw balance sheets on where South Africa stands now, I would say that the positive outweighs the negative by far. There is a tendency by commentators across the world to focus on the few negatives which are quite negative, like how are we handling AIDS, like our role vis-à-vis Zimbabwe. But the positives – the stability in South Africa, the adherence to well-balanced economic policies, fighting inflation, doing all the right things in order to lay the basis and the foundation for sustained economic growth – are in place.
- Interview with Richard Stengel (8 June 2004)
- I have great sympathy with America. It's very, it's very tough to be the only remaining superpower in the world.
- Interview with Richard Stengel (8 June 2004)
- Personally, my relationship with P. W. Botha was often strained. I did not like his overbearing leadership style and was opposed to the intrusion of the State Security Council system into virtually every facet of government. After I became leader of the National Party in February 1989, I did my best to ensure that P. W. Botha would be able to end his term as president with full dignity and decorum. Unfortunately, this was not to be.
- Statement on the death of P. W. Botha (1 November 2006)
- As we did before in 1994, I feel we have a capacity to do so again. We succeeded in resolving our problems by peaceful means when everybody expected war and violence... We have one of the best constitutions in the world. We should be proud of this constitution, which provides the framework for a functioning multiparty democracy, independent courts and other institutions that stand for [the] advancement of human rights... He said the country had already held three elections and that two presidents had relinquished their power through constitutional means. Although former president Thabo Mbeki had left under difficult conditions, even that had been done constitutionally... These are all signs of growing constitutional maturity. Our democracy is growing up and there are open debates which will take us to robust contestations.
- Speech in Durban (2008)
- Our failure to achieve greater income equality is reflected in the fact that our Gini index has deteriorated from 66 in 1996, to 70 in 2008. Inequality has also increased within all our population groups – from 54 to 62 among black South Africans, and from 43 to 50 among whites. The most equal countries in the world – Japan, Sweden and Denmark – have Gini indexes of 25. In these countries the top 10% earn only six times as much as the bottom 10%. By contrast, the top 10% in South Africa earn 110 times more than the bottom 10%.
The long-term solution to the problems of poverty and inequality lies in vastly improving our education and training system, in creating jobs and in ensuring rapid and sustainable economic growth. It will also be essential to address the underlying social problems identified by the World Bank. These are precisely the factors that have been diagnosed and addressed by the South Africa’s National Planning Commission in its National Development Plan. The challenge will be to ensure that we successfully implement the National Development Plan. If we can do so, I am confident that we will be able to make continuing progress in reducing poverty and inequality – and thus, in achieving the vision in our Constitution.
- You have Palestinians living in Israel with full political rights. You don’t have discriminatory laws against them, I mean not letting them swim on certain beaches or anything like that. I think it's unfair to call Israel an apartheid state. If Kerry did so, I think he made a mistake.
- As quoted in "South Africa's de Klerk: Israel not an apartheid state" (27 May 2014), The Times of Israel
- Uri Friedman: Why did the South African government, in the mid-1970s, decide to embark on a nuclear-weapons program?
- F. W. de Klerk: The main motivation was the expansionist policies of the USSR in southern Africa. They were supporting all the [African] liberation movements—they were supplying weapons and training—and it was part of their vision to gain direct or indirect control over most of the countries in southern Africa. They financed the deployment of many thousands of Cuban troops, especially to Angola, and this was interpreted as a threat first by Prime Minister John Vorster, and following upon him P.W. Botha. [W]as never intended, I think, to be used. It was a deterrent. Because of apartheid South Africa was becoming more and more isolated in the eyes of the rest of the world. There wouldn’t be, in the case of Russian aggression or invasion, assistance from the international community. It was felt that, if we have nuclear weapons, and if we then would disclose in a crisis that we have [them], it would change the political scenario and the USA and other countries might step in and assist South Africa.
- As quoted in "Why One President Gave Up His Country's Nukes" (9 September 2017), by Uri Friedman, The Atlantic
Quotes about F. W. de Klerk
- When President de Klerk first became president of South Africa, Maitreya entered Mandela’s prison and asked him to write to the President requesting a meeting. Mandela laughed and said: “I cannot even get a meeting with the prison governor, let alone the President of the Republic”. Maitreya said: “Yes I know. But write the letter anyway and I will do the rest.” Mandela duly wrote to de Klerk on the day of his inauguration in August 1989. Maitreya approached the President while he was at prayer, and put in his mind that the time had come to end apartheid in South Africa. The President was a religious man, a sincere Christian, and took it to heart. He ‘talked to God’, asking what he should do and received the answer: ‘the time has come to end apartheid’. In December 1989 Mandela and de Klerk met and on 2 February 1990 de Klerk dramatically announced in Parliament the dismantling of apartheid and the unconditional release of Mandela from prison.
- Benjamin Creme, A tribute to Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013, Share International magazine, (January/February 2014)
- Encyclopedic article on F. W. de Klerk on Wikipedia