In Memoriam: F. W. de Klerk, the last leader of apartheid


It’s with mixed feelings that I read of the death of F. W. de Klerk, last white State President of the apartheid-era Republic of South Africa.

F.W. de Klerk, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela and as South Africa’s last apartheid president oversaw the end of the country’s White minority rule, has died at the age of 85.

De Klerk was a controversial figure in South Africa where many blamed him for violence against Black South Africans and anti-apartheid activists during his time in power, while some White South Africans saw his efforts to end apartheid as a betrayal. 

It was de Klerk who in a speech to South Africa’s parliament on Feb. 2, 1990, announced that Mandela would be released from prison after 27 years. The announcement electrified a country that for decades had been scorned and sanctioned by much of the world for its brutal system of racial discrimination known as apartheid.

. . .

The country would be, de Klerk told the media after his fateful speech, “a new South Africa.” But Mandela’s release was just the beginning of intense political negotiations on the way forward. Power would shift. A new constitution would be written. Ways of life would be upended.

. . .

“Sometimes, Mr. de Klerk does not get the credit that he deserves,” Nobel laureate and former archbishop Desmond Tutu told David Frost in an interview in 2012. 

Despite his role in South Africa’s transformation, de Klerk would continue to defend what his National Party decades ago had declared as the goal of apartheid, the separate development of White and Black South Africans. In practice, however, apartheid forced millions of the country’s Black majority into nominally independent “homelands” where poverty was widespread, while the White minority held most of South Africa’s land. Apartheid starved the Black South African education system of resources, criminalized interracial relations, created black slums on the edges of White cities and tore apart families.

De Klerk late in life would acknowledge that “separate but equal failed.”

There’s more at the link.

De Klerk had the political vision to recognize that in the late 1980’s, South Africa had reached an impasse, a no-win situation.  The apartheid government could maintain its grip on power, but could not do so without brutally suppressing race riots and unrest that were sweeping the country, at the cost of thousands of lives every year.  The opposition African National Congress and its allies could not overthrow the apartheid state by violence, but they could (and did) make much of the country ungovernable.  Neither side could win;  but neither side could be defeated, either.  There had to be a new way forward.

De Klerk had the courage to take that step, releasing Nelson Mandela from prison, unbanning the ANC, and beginning negotiations to bring true democracy to South Africa.  Many have pointed to the resultant corruption, chaos and anarchy in that country as “his fault”.  Many have maintained that things were somehow better under apartheid than they’ve been under majority rule.  I don’t agree, of course.  I answered such objections some years ago, and my answer remains as true now as it was then.  Apartheid was one of the most evil systems of government of the 20th century, fully comparable in its moral and ethical dregs to communism, fascism and Nazism.  It had to go.  The fact that what replaced it has not been much better in practical terms can’t be allowed to obscure the fact that the real evil underlying apartheid was conquered.  That, in and of itself, was worthwhile.

De Klerk was a deeply fallible man (as are we all):  but he rose above his fallibility to do the only honorable thing he could.  He chose to step back from the bloodshed and chaos, and do his best to bring about a peaceful resolution.  He may not have succeeded;  but, for trying, I honor his memory.  So did the Nobel Committee when they jointly awarded him and Nelson Mandela the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.  It was richly deserved.

I remember listening to de Klerk announce, in Parliament, that he would release Nelson Mandela from prison and unban the ANC.  It was like a bomb set off underneath the tangled morass of South African politics.  Right-wing, pro-apartheid individuals and groups denounced him as a traitor.  Left-wing, anti-apartheid groups called it a good first step, but not nearly enough.  Most of us just hoped and prayed that what he’d set in motion would somehow end the killing and lead to peace.  Eventually, after much more bloodshed, it did.  Let that be his memorial.



  1. I chatted with him briefly about 20 years ago while working security for his speech at my university. Nothing substantial – just pointing out that two of my best professors were Afrikaners.

  2. As has always been the case, the new found "freedom" of South Africans has mirrored the results wherever they are given autonomy, from Haiti to Detroit, and that is chaos and violence.

  3. The Chinese have a word for this kind of person: Hanjian. A traitor to (specifically… it says Han, after all) the Chinese. A sellout to some Other(s).

    Those who cannot draw such clear lines for themselves will have the lines drawn for them by others.

    Half a Nobel Prize. Some invitations here and there. A shot at the Ivies or Oxbridge for the grandkids. Less trouble at the Gulfstream Store for his buddies the Ruperts et al.

    I have a colleague who to this day runs a very small Schindler's List operation getting poorer whites who are *not* CPAs or commercial pilots and who do not have those oh-so-handy UK grandparents up their sleeves out of the country and into starter jobs.

    Marshal Petain was a better man.

  4. Because starving them of education resources is why they are the way they are. It's the same reason why inner city schools need more money. On, no! Don't notice anything here about genetics, history, and facts! Remember that the greatest sin is racism. It says so in the Bible… or so the lefties tell me

  5. I deleted the previous comment by a white-supremacist self-proclaimed "Pastor" because he's doing nothing but spout racist garbage and pro-Nazi propaganda. I won't have that trash on this blog in any way, shape or form. If he wants to pollute the blogosphere in that way, he can do it on his own blog – not here.

  6. The fact you give that racist Tutu(who hates whites by the way) credit for helping destroy a once 1st world nation says it all. To see South Africa today you would think it is no different than any other black run country. Whites are being hunted and will soon turn on itself. Want to see what happens when white rule is gone and the blacks take over, see Rhodesia, once the breadbasket of Africa, now a bloody basket case. Or look at any democratic black run city in America today. Let me tell you how this diversity shoved up our backsides ends, like it always does, with massive bloodshed. I dare anyone here to show me where diversity has ever worked in history? Go ahead, I'll wait.

  7. So why did Nazism have to go? There were concentration camps but no gassing of anyone; such an operation is a logistical impossibility. Even Paul Craig Roberts has said as much and David Irving.

    If WWII was such a great war for the West, why did half of Eastern Europe end up under communism? Stalin wanted to steamroll Western Europe and Hitler stopped it. I would make a bet that they would have been better off under Hitler's protection. At least he encourage home ownership, arms for German citizens, and put a stop to the woke homo nonsense of that time. Not my ideal form of government but preferable to Bolshevism.

    South Africa is a disaster and we all know why, but that would be 'da rasis' to delve further into the real problem. The Whites over there are the only ones who really deserve any asylum to the US. I wish we could round up all the white leftards and ship to South Africa or Zimbabwe.

  8. @G: I don't have space or time to go into all the inaccuracies in your comment about Archbishop Tutu. There's a whole lot more to the story than you're prepared to admit. In particular, he's not anti-White: he was (for a time) anti-Afrikaner, and if you'd been treated the way the Afrikaner apartheid state treated him, I daresay you'd have felt likewise. As for all black-run places ending up like that: sadly, there's a great deal to what you say, but there's also a lot more to it than that. When your leaders are venal, self-serving, greedy SOB's, the place they lead will reflect that. There are places in Africa that are better led – but again, I don't have time to go into that.

    @The Lab Manager: If you deny the Holocaust (which is what your opening comments amount to), then you're so profoundly wrong that I see no way of correcting you. History speaks for itself – as did my father, who saw some of the concentration camps (and their gas chambers) for himself at the end of World War II. You've drunk the pro-Nazi kool-aid, and unless and until you purge yourself of it, you're going to be wrong.

  9. So, how's that worked out for the country (and the rest of the world) since then?

    Unicorns and rainbows all around? Or what?

    Minority rule and apartheid was racist and wouldn't "work"? Granted.

    How has black rule and full democracy turned out there, and in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa?
    Pretty much exactly like Washington D.C., Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, etc. ad infinitum?

    How many times in a row does ice have to freeze at 32° F. before relating that fact becomes "expressing a law of Nature" rather than "anecdotal racism"?

    Asking for 8B people.

    Most of African history is nothing but a 10,000 years-long monument of the futility of trying to teach a pig to sing.

    Slavery (which is practiced in Africa and the Turd World to this very day)was and is stupid.

    But the Carthaginian example has a lot to say about the civilizational merits of extreme forms of population control. Ask the Philistines, for that matter.

    It's only "progressive" sensibilities that kneejerk rebels against the doctrinal concept of "vessels of wrath", pretty much contrary to all of human history.

    And an entire continent is probably a wee bit too large to expect humanity to consecrate as an international wilderness park preserve in perpetuity.

  10. @Aesop: Most of your points – granted. I can't argue with them.

    I will say only this. A system of government – apartheid – that was thoroughly evil in its conception and implementation; that treated all non-white people as (effectively) sub-human, to be exploited and manipulated, but never trusted with equal rights; that violated most of the human rights the rest of the civilized world takes for granted; and that does all this in the name of the Christian God, thereby warping and twisting Biblical teaching until it was unrecognizable . . . that system is so evil that it simply has to go. There is no place for it in human society.

    That's why, to this day, I'm grateful to have played a small part in the downfall of apartheid. I can't do anything about what replaced it, just as those who destroyed Nazism could do nothing about what replaced it: but it was necessary and good and just that such evil was destroyed. If someone can't agree with that, it says a lot about them. (I'm not accusing you of that, BTW – as I said, your comments are largely accurate.)

    We can't force people, or politicians, or nations, to do the right thing. However, sometimes it's right and necessary to force them to stop doing the wrong thing. Can we agree on that?

  11. I went to S.A. annually from 1998 to 2010 – it made me quite sad to see how progressively the country went to pieces over time. Safe areas became very unsafe; clean areas became filthy etc.

    Peter – let's not ignore the successful Black run country just North of S.A. – Botswana has been quite successful relative to the balance of Sub Saharan African countries.

  12. I fear the solution reached will lead to more misery and death over time and the problem was causing. See Rhodesia for where South Africa is heading….I give it 10 to 15 more years.

  13. @The Lab Manager: If you deny the Holocaust (which is what your opening comments amount to), then you're so profoundly wrong that I see no way of correcting you. History speaks for itself – as did my father, who saw some of the concentration camps (and their gas chambers) for himself at the end of World War II. You've drunk the pro-Nazi kool-aid, and unless and until you purge yourself of it, you're going to be wrong.

    Can you offer me any real proof contrary to the official story? If it was real, why are there laws in Europe making it illegal to question it. Why were gas chambers not mentioned in any of the major books after the war by Eisenhower, Churchill and others. How would they accomplish this feat while fighting a two to three front war? And why don't those buildings look anything like a modern gas chamber for the execution of criminals?

    There were definitely concentration camps and slave labor was employed, but the gas chambers are nonsense. Funny these camps had cafeterias and hospitals and schools. Also anyone should look up David Cole, a Jew, who questioned the official story some years ago.

    Also funny that those concentration camps with the chambers were all under communist control, you know Stalin, with the Holomodor, which killed millions of Christians and somehow no movies are made about this. I wonder why?

    Let us not forget that Hitler made a number of peace proposals to the Poles, French, and English, which I've only learned about recently in the last few years. Why is this not in the history books of us victors? Or how about operation Keehaul where the US gave Soviet troops back to Stalin to kill or send to a gulag.

    As I said, the NSDAP is not my ideal form of government, but it was far preferable to the what the Bolsheviks would have done. And people should go look up Stalin's War, where Stalin was planning to steamroll Western Europe before Operation Barbarossa stopped it. And again, why did the murderer Stalin and his gang get half of Eastern Europe if WWII was about freedom and democracy?

  14. @The Lab Manager: As I said – you've drunk the Kool-aid. The facts of history are against you.

    With such an attitude, you're not welcome here. Please go comment somewhere else.

  15. Peter,

    As I granted, I have no quibble about stopping government from doing the wrong thing, and hold no brief to defend apartheid, then or ever.

    The follow-on to that denouement should have made the Trail Of Tears and the Bataan Death March look like pale imitations.

    You should forgive the unintended pun.

    The failure to do that is why SAfrica is now a tragic punchline, and why Israel continues to be vexed by trying to live and let live amidst blood enemies who want them dead to the last child.

    Some problems have a simple solution, which is nonetheless not "nice", but altogether fitting, proper, and inevitable.

    Had de Klerk ended apartheid, and then pushed every tribe in the country out of the country's geographical borders, he would have been within the bounds of sense. Instead, he removed an inarguable evil, only to open the floodgates to a far greater one.

    Trading the evils of apartheid for slow-motion white genocide hardly seems like anything for which to compliment a man.

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