History Podcasts

F.W. De Klerk - History

F.W. De Klerk - History

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

F.W. De Klerk


South African Politician

Frederik Willem de Klerk was born March 18, 1936 in ohannesburg South Africa. He was educated at Potchestroom University. He received a law degree and began practicing law in Vereeninging. He became active in the National Party and in 1972, entered the South African Parliament.

He served in the cabinets of B.J. Vorster and P.W. Botha. He established a reputation as an ultra-conservative, but when he came to power he began dismantling apartheid.

His first move was releasing Nelson Mandela from jail, followed by the legalization of the African National Congress. Together with Nelson Mandela, De Klerk received the Nobel Prize for peace in 1993.

Why FW de Klerk let Nelson Mandela out of prison

After 26 years in captivity, Nelson Mandela did not want to be set free straight away. Two days before his release, the world's most famous political prisoner was taken to see President FW de Klerk in his Cape Town office. The president got a surprise.

"I told him he would be flown to Johannesburg and released there on 11 February 1990. Mr Mandela's reaction was not at all as I had expected," said De Klerk. "He said: 'No, it is too soon, we need more time for preparation.' That is when I realised that long hours of negotiation lay ahead with this man."

Twenty years after the event, sitting in the study of his Cape Town home, Frederik Willem de Klerk, now 73, still has the headmasterly style and deliberate speech that the watching world came to know as he played a crucial role in dismantling apartheid. But the winner of the 1993 Nobel peace prize still recalls the enormous leap of faith that was required to negotiate the end of white minority rule with what he describes as the "fundamentally socialistic" African National Congress of the time.

Just after 4pm on the date appointed by De Klerk, Mandela, then 71, walked free, holding the hand of his wife, Winnie. The prisoner had lost his argument for a later release date but had persuaded De Klerk to allow him to leave directly from Victor Verster prison, in Paarl, near Cape Town. Mandela held up his fist in an ANC salute. In an instant he switched from being a symbol of the oppressed to the global symbol of courage and freedom that he remains today.

Mandela's release did not signal the end of apartheid. In fact, the white-ruled pariah state was entering the most dangerous chapter in its history since the introduction of racial separateness in 1948.

Four hours after leaving prison, Mandela arrived in Cape Town to address thousands of people gathered outside city hall. The impatient crowd had clashed with police and bullets had been fired. But Mandela did not bring a message of appeasement. "The factors which necessitated armed struggle still exist today," he told the cheering onlookers.

Mandela called on the international community to maintain its sanctions. "I have carried the idea of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. I hope to live to see the achievement of that ideal. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die," he shouted.

With hindsight, Mandela used the fiery address to take up a negotiating position and convince the black majority that he had not made a secret pact with the authorities.

De Klerk had his moment of truth nine days earlier, in an address to the all-white parliament that coined the phrase "a new South Africa". "There were gasps in the house, yes," said De Klerk, "but not at the news of Mr Mandela's release. The gasps came when I announced the unbanning not only of the ANC but also the South African Communist party and of all affiliated organisations, which included the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe. There were gasps then and, from the far-right party, protests and boos."

De Klerk speaks slowly and clearly – and charmlessly. He is a lawyer from a strict, Calvinist tradition in which displays of emotion are a seen as a sign of weakness. His one quirk seems to be the incessant chewing of gum. He has lived in this modern house in Fresnaye for 18 months, having moved into Cape Town with his second wife, Elita, from his farm in Paarl. He points out that, from his garden, he has a view of Robben Island, where Mandela spent 18 years in prison. It is a fact. He does not reveal whether it leaves him hot or cold.

But radical change requires steely nerves. De Klerk had become president in September 1989, the son of a National party cabinet minister and the nephew of a prime minister. He grew up with Afrikaner fear in his DNA – the dread that after 400 years on the tip of Africa and the struggle against British colonial rule, his Huguenot descendants would be chased into the sea by the black majority. That fear contributed to policies that built his nation – forced removals to create racially segregated areas and blacks being deprived of their citizenship. It led to "passbooks", introduced to restrict black people's movements beyond those that were necessary to the economy, and separate beaches, buses, hospitals, schools, universities and lavatories for blacks, whites, mixed-race "coloureds" and Indians.

As he prepared his 2 February speech at his holiday home in Hermanus in the Western Cape, De Klerk claims he had no confidant. "My predecessor, PW Botha, had an inner circle and I did not like it. I preferred decisions to evolve out of cabinet discussions. That way we achieved real co-ownership of our policies."

He says his consultative style was a break with National party culture. But he also claims – in a line of argument that allows him to avoid condemning apartheid outright – that the system unravelled through a gradual process. Even today, he admits only that international sanctions against South Africa "from time to time kept us on our toes".

In 1959 prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd's government divided black South Africans into eight ethnic groups and allocated them "homelands" – nations within the nation. The move was a cornerstone of an Afrikaner nationalist dream to create a republic, but it led to international isolation. De Klerk was a vigorous supporter. "I wanted us to take a more adventurous approach to the nation state concept, but the project ultimately failed because the whites wanted to keep too much land for themselves.

"The third phase – which coincided with my entering cabinet but was not started by me – was a shift towards reform. It focused on making separate development more acceptable while still believing it was just. But by the early 1980s we had ended up in a dead-end street in which a minority would continue to hold the reins of power and blacks, outside the homelands, really did not have any meaningful political rights. We had become too economically inter-dependent. We had become an omelette that you could not unscramble."

In 1986 the National party abandoned the concept of separate development. "We embraced the idea of a united South Africa with equal political rights for all, but with very effective protection of minorities. Then my predecessor lost his enthusiasm. When I took over, my task was to flesh out what was already a fairly clear vision, but we needed broad support. We needed negotiation."

De Klerk moved quickly. In October 1989, a month after succeeding Botha, he released Mandela's political mentor, Walter Sisulu, and seven other prominent Robben Island prisoners. De Klerk says: "When I first met Mandela we did not discuss anything of substance, we just felt each other out. He spent a long time expressing his admiration for the Boer generals and how ingenious they were during the Anglo-Boer war. We did not discuss the fundamental problems or our political philosophies at all.

"Later, during the negotiations, it became clear that there was a big divide. On the economic side, the ANC was fundamentally socialistic, the influence of the Communist party was pervasive and they wanted nationalisation. They also wanted to create an unelected government of national unity which would organise elections. We insisted on governing until a new constitution had been negotiated and adopted by parliament."

De Klerk's successive negotiated victories potentially saved South Africa from the post-colonial governance void suffered by many other countries on the continent. They also entrenched minority rights constitutionally and set the country on a capitalist path. "The government that came into power after the April 1994 elections was going to need a budget. It was drafted by our finance minister, Derek Keys, and he convinced them of the necessity to stay within the free-market principles that had been in force in South Africa for decades. The ANC has stuck to these principles and that is one of the great positives."

He worries that the left wing of the governing alliance – which supported President Jabob Zuma's offensive to oust Thabo Mbeki in 2008 – will win its current campaign for payback. De Klerk, who retired as deputy president in 1997, also believes South Africa is ripe for a political shake-up, maybe as soon as in next year's municipal elections.

"You cannot say we are a healthy, dynamic democracy when one party wins almost two-thirds of the vote. We need a realignment in politics. I am convinced there will be further splits in the ANC because you cannot keep together people who believe in hardline socialism and others who have become convinced of free-market principles. The 2011 elections will be the opportunity for some much-needed shock therapy. I hope people at those elections will use their right to vote less with emotion and more through reason to express their concerns about the failure of service delivery."

The foundation he runs in Cape Town officially exists to defend the constitution but places a strong focus on minority rights – those of Afrikaners and the Afrikaans-speaking "coloured" population. "The ANC has regressed into dividing South Africa again along the basis of race and class. We see an attitude in which for certain purposes all people of colour are black, but for other purposes black Africans have a more valid case in the field of, for example, affirmative action than do brown or Indian South Africans. The legacy of Mandela – reconciliation – urgently needs to be revived."

He says some whites still accuse him of having given the country away. Asked what would have happened had he not made the 2 February speech, De Klerk has a ready answer. "To those people I say it is a false comparison to look at what was good in the old South Africa against what is bad today.

"If we had not changed in the manner we did, South Africa would be completely isolated. The majority of people in the world would be intent on overthrowing the government. Our economy would be non-existent – we would not be exporting a single case of wine and South African planes would not be allowed to land anywhere. Internally, we would have the equivalent of civil war."

The End of Apartheid

Apartheid, the Afrikaans name given by the white-ruled South Africa ’s Nationalist Party in 1948 to the country’s harsh, institutionalized system of racial segregation, came to an end in the early 1990s in a series of steps that led to the formation of a democratic government in 1994. Years of violent internal protest, weakening white commitment, international economic and cultural sanctions, economic struggles, and the end of the Cold War brought down white minority rule in Pretoria. U.S. policy toward the regime underwent a gradual but complete transformation that played an important conflicting role in Apartheid’s initial survival and eventual downfall.

Although many of the segregationist policies dated back to the early decades of the twentieth century, it was the election of the Nationalist Party in 1948 that marked the beginning of legalized racism’s harshest features called Apartheid. The Cold War then was in its early stages. U.S. President Harry Truman’s foremost foreign policy goal was to limit Soviet expansion. Despite supporting a domestic civil rights agenda to further the rights of black people in the United States, the Truman Administration chose not to protest the anti-communist South African government’s system of Apartheid in an effort to maintain an ally against the Soviet Union in southern Africa. This set the stage for successive administrations to quietly support the Apartheid regime as a stalwart ally against the spread of communism.

Inside South Africa, riots, boycotts, and protests by black South Africans against white rule had occurred since the inception of independent white rule in 1910. Opposition intensified when the Nationalist Party, assuming power in 1948, effectively blocked all legal and non-violent means of political protest by non-whites. The African National Congress (ANC) and its offshoot, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), both of which envisioned a vastly different form of government based on majority rule, were outlawed in 1960 and many of its leaders imprisoned. The most famous prisoner was a leader of the ANC, Nelson Mandela , who had become a symbol of the anti-Apartheid struggle. While Mandela and many political prisoners remained incarcerated in South Africa, other anti-Apartheid leaders fled South Africa and set up headquarters in a succession of supportive, independent African countries, including Guinea, Tanzania, Zambia, and neighboring Mozambique where they continued the fight to end Apartheid. It was not until the 1980s, however, that this turmoil effectively cost the South African state significant losses in revenue, security, and international reputation.

The international community had begun to take notice of the brutality of the Apartheid regime after white South African police opened fire on unarmed black protesters in the town of Sharpeville in 1960, killing 69 people and wounding 186 others. The United Nations led the call for sanctions against the South African Government. Fearful of losing friends in Africa as de-colonization transformed the continent, powerful members of the Security Council, including Great Britain, France, and the United States, succeeded in watering down the proposals. However, by the late 1970s, grassroots movements in Europe and the United States succeeded in pressuring their governments into imposing economic and cultural sanctions on Pretoria. After the U.S. Congress passed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act in 1986, many large multinational companies withdrew from South Africa. By the late 1980s, the South African economy was struggling with the effects of the internal and external boycotts as well as the burden of its military commitment in occupying Namibia.

Defenders of the Apartheid regime, both inside and outside South Africa, had promoted it as a bulwark against communism. However, the end of the Cold War rendered this argument obsolete. South Africa had illegally occupied neighboring Namibia at the end of World War II, and since the mid-1970s, Pretoria had used it as a base to fight the communist party in Angola. The United States had even supported the South African Defense Force’s efforts in Angola. In the 1980s, hard-line anti-communists in Washington continued to promote relations with the Apartheid government despite economic sanctions levied by the U.S. Congress. However, the relaxation of Cold War tensions led to negotiations to settle the Cold War conflict in Angola. Pretoria’s economic struggles gave the Apartheid leaders strong incentive to participate. When South Africa reached a multilateral agreement in 1988 to end its occupation of Namibia in return for a Cuban withdrawal from Angola, even the most ardent anti-communists in the United States lost their justification for support of the Apartheid regime.

The effects of the internal unrest and international condemnation led to dramatic changes beginning in 1989. South African Prime Minister P.W. Botha resigned after it became clear that he had lost the faith of the ruling National Party (NP) for his failure to bring order to the country. His successor, F W de Klerk , in a move that surprised observers, announced in his opening address to Parliament in February 1990 that he was lifting the ban on the ANC and other black liberation parties, allowing freedom of the press, and releasing political prisoners. The country waited in anticipation for the release of Nelson Mandela who walked out of prison after 27 years on February 11, 1990.

The impact of Mandela’s release reverberated throughout South Africa and the world. After speaking to throngs of supporters in Cape Town where he pledged to continue the struggle, but advocated peaceful change, Mandela took his message to the international media. He embarked on a world tour culminating in a visit to the United States where he spoke before a joint session of Congress.

On This Day in History: F.W. de Klerk was Sworn in as President of South Africa

F .W. de Klerk was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, on March 18, 1936. After obtaining a law degree from Potchefstroom University, F.W. de Klerk began his political career in 1972 when he was elected to parliament as a member of the National Party. The National Party, which birthed apartheid, came into power in 1948 by promoting Afrikaner culture, or the control of Afrikaans-speaking white South Africans. The goal was not only to make Afrikaners superior to Black South Africans but also to English-speaking South Africans.

The National Party was successful in not only stripping Black South Africans of rights but also of initiating South Africa leaving the British Commonwealth in 1961. The National Party continued to keep control for 33 years after South Africa became a republic, and eventually elected P.W. Botha, de Klerk’s predecessor, as South African Prime Minister in 1978 on the promise of upholding apartheid. Although he legalized interracial marriages in the 1980s, the majority of his policies offered mere lip service to improving race relations. For example, in 1984, Botha helped form a new constitution, which allowed for three different parliaments—one for White South Africans, one for Black South Africans, and one for Indian South Africans. However, the true purpose of this change was to still keep White South Africans in power, as their parliament had more seats than the Black and Indian South African parliaments combined. Additionally, he granted independence to some of the Black South African’s assigned “homelands” (reservations) with the goal of keeping Black and White South Africans separate with the White South Africans in control.

Opposition against the Nationalist Party and Botha continued to rise in intensity through the African National Congress’s (ANC) advocacy for rights of Black South Africans. The ANC, founded in 1912, was banned in the 1960s by the National Party and the struggles between the two groups became violent. Eleven years into Botha’s presidency, he became ill. After suffering a stroke, he named de Klerk the leader of the National Party, while still retaining the presidency. Botha became more ill, difficult, and forgetful until his own cabinet and the National Party forced him to resign. F.W. De Klerk became acting president of South Africa on August 15, 1989, and was elected president for a five-year term on September 14, 1989. He was sworn into the presidency on September 20, 1989, marking the beginning of a new South Africa.

There was nothing in de Klerk’s background that would have suggested he would reform the country. He served under Botha in various high-ranking positions and the National Party knew him as someone who sided with the verkrampte (an “unenlightened” National Party member who opposed liberal changes, such as reforming apartheid), although he considered himself moderate. However, de Klerk had already decided that he would be the one to end apartheid. He knew that apartheid wouldn’t last forever, and dictatorships all over the world such as the Soviet Union were collapsing. He believed it would be best to end the system of apartheid as quickly as possible, like “cutting off the tail of a dog in one fell swoop.”

After being elected president, he lifted the ban on protest marches as well as began to release political prisoners. He began negotiations with Black South African leaders, including the still imprisoned Nelson Mandela, avoiding a possible civil war. In an interview about his choice to end apartheid, F.W. de Klerk said:

“For many years I supported the concept of separate states. I believed it could bring justice for everyone, including the blacks who would determine their own lives inside their own states. But by the early 1980s, I had concluded this would not work and was leading to injustice and that the system had to change. I still believed, in 1990, that the independent states had a place, but in the end the ANC had put so much pressure on them that they didn’t want to go on.”

F.W. de Klerk took time during his 1989 Christmas vacation to discern how to unify South Africa and end apartheid. He says of this time that he had “long come to the realisation that we were involved in a downward spiral of increasing violence and we could not hang on indefinitely. We were involved in an armed struggle where there would be no winners. The key decision I had to take now, for myself, was whether to make a paradigm shift.” By the end of this vacation, he decided he needed to make the shift. His speech on February 2, 1990, and the freeing of Nelson Mandela, would make it a reality.

The speech preceding Mandela’s release shocked the entire world. De Klerk unbanned the ANC and other similar parties, released all political prisoners, and promised a future of democracy with rights for all citizens, Black and White alike. Nine days after de Klerk’s February 2 speech, Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years of imprisonment.

Why has history decided to judge F.W De Klerk so lightly?

When one thinks of Frederik Willem de Klerk, the 7th state president of South Africa, one almost instantly thinks of the image of himself and Nelson Mandela holding hands in the air. Our hearts are filled with joy as we recall how crucial this partnership was in building a reconciliatory, democratic South Africa.

Students are taught in History that he was the National Party head who had the guts to stand up to the hard liners in his party, and point out the deeply flawed nature of the Apartheid government. More so, he emphasised and the need to engage in dialogues with the ANC to build a democratic society. These are in turn the exploits which resulted in him winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

There are a few nuances to this historical picture of De Klerk which I feel are ignored. Firstly , the fact that he was able to stand up to hard liners within the National Party as its leader lays within it an obvious but overlooked truth. The truth that he himself was part of the National Party. As such he was in favour of the principles for which this morally bankrupt political party stood.

These included the notion that black South Africans were not South Africans in the first place, and that as a result of this there should be separate development. More so, that due to those of colour being inferior to the superior white race they did not require the same standard of living as their white counterparts. The fact that he aligned himself with a party which held these views must make us question the rosy picture of this figure which we as South Africans have decided to paint.

Before he became state president he was Minister of Education in the National party government. During this tenure he was notorious for telling white students to spy on their teaches .He is quoted as say if these teachers were spreading progressive ideas or agendas – like the fact that the apartheid system was morally reprehensible- they should report these teachers to the relevant authorities. Does this sound like a figure that is worthy of such acclaims within our history books and a Nobel Peace Prize? I will leave that question to you as the reader to ponder.

To me it has almost seemed like we have applauded De Klerk for gaining a conscience and realising that Aparthied as a system, which he helped entrench, was morally bankrupt. And to make matters worse it seems De Klerk has not even done that. In an interview with the BBC in 2012 he is quoted as saying “What I haven’t apologised for is the original concept of seeking to bring justice to all South Africans through the concept of nation states.” Statements such as these unequivocally show that in his view De Klerk believed in the notion of separate development, but that it was just poorly implemented in the South African context.

Throughout the interview De Klerk defended the concept of “separate but equal” nation states. Later in this interview De Klerk repudiates the effects of apartheid, but not the concept. I believe as South Africans we need to have a honest evolution with ourselves about how we remember our former president and how we engage with him and chose to remember him. Because as his sentiments, such as those shown in his BBC interview, he, in my view, is not a man whom truly espouses the views of an inclusive , representative and unified democratic South Africa.

Mikhail Petersen holds a Bachelors of Social Science degree in Politics and Economic History as well as an LLB from UCT. Mikhail is an intern within the Sustained Dialogue Programme at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, based in Cape Town.

F. W. de Klerk

F. W. de Klerk is a South African politician. He served as State President of South Africa, from 15 August, 1989 to 10 May, 1994, and Deputy President of South Africa, from 10 May, 1994 to 30 June, 1996. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1993, with Nelson Mandela. He was the seventh and last head of state of South Africa under the apartheid era. He is the son of Hendrina Cornelia (Coetzer) and politician Johannes de Klerk. He is married to Elita Georgiadis. He has three children with his former wife, Marike Willemse.

“The Peacemakers” won Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 1993. F. W. was one of four persons chosen to represent that title, along with Yasser Arafat, Nelson Mandela, and Yitzhak Rabin.

The surname de Klerk is derived from Le Clerc, Le Clercq, and de Clercq, and is of French Huguenot origin (meaning “clergyman” or “literate” in old French). Meanwhile, the surname Coetzer came from his ancestor, Kutzer, who stems from Austria.

Some research suggests that F. W. has Finnish and Italian ancestry. It is not clear if these ancestries have been verified/documented.

F. W. is a half-third cousin, once removed, of Namibian model Behati Prinsloo. F.W.’s maternal great-great-grandmother, Anna Sophia Erasmus, was also Behati’s paternal great-great-great-grandmother.

F. W.’s patrilineal ancestry can be traced back to his 10th great-grandfather, Étienne le Clercq, a French Huguenot.

A few of F. W.’s remote ancestors were slaves from African, India, Indonesia, and Madagascar. His 10th great-grandmother, Krotoa (also known as Eva), was a Khoikhoi interpreter.

F. W.’s paternal grandfather was Willem Johannes de Klerk (the son of Barend Jacobus de Klerk and Maria Jacoba Grobler). Willem was born in Burgersdorp, Drakensberg District, Eastern Cape. Barend was the son of Johannes Cornelis de Klerk and Martha Margaretha Schoeman. Maria was the daughter of Jacobus Johannes Grobler and Johanna Susanna Lasya Coetzee.

F. W.’s paternal grandmother was Aletta Johanna “Lettie” van Rooy (the daughter of Johannes Cornelis van Rooy and Aletta Johanna Smit). F. W.’s grandmother Aletta was born in Burgersdorp, Drakensberg District, Eastern Cape. F. W.’s great-grandfather Johannes was the son of Johannes Cornelis van Rooy and Anne Françoise Holsters. F. W.’s great-grandmother Aletta was the daughter of Jacobus Albertus Smit and Aletta Johanna Smit. Jacobus and F. W.’s great-great-grandmother Aletta were both born with the same surname.

F. W.’s maternal grandfather was Frederik Willem Coetzer (the son of Jacob Erasmus Coetzer and Elizabeth Catharina Jacoba Johanna Buitendag). F. W.’s grandfather Frederik was born in Bloemfontein, Motheo, Free State. Jacob was the son of Jacob Coetzer and Anna Sophia Erasmus. Elizabeth was the daughter of Carel Hendrik Buitendag and Maria Magdalena de Beer.

F. W.’s maternal grandmother was Anna Cecilia Fouchè (the daughter of Jacobus Paulus Fouché and Cornelia Hendrina Strydom). Anna was born in Rouxville, Xhariep, Free State. Jacobus was the son of Gustavus Wilhelmus Fouché amd Johanna Swanepoel. Cornelia was the daughter of Adriaan Stephanus Strydom and Elizabeth Johanna Maria Charlotte Swanepoel.

F. W.’s matrilineal ancestry can be traced back to his 5th great-grandmother, Jacoba Johanna Kruger.

He has an estimated net worth of about $46 million making him stand amongst one of the richest politicians in South Africa.

  • Order of Mapungubwe, State President of the Republic of South Africa
  • Co-Recipient of Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela
  • Philadelphia Liberty Medal, President Bill Clinton, USA
  • Prix de Courage International, France
  • Co-Recipient of UNESCO Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela
  • Honorary LLD, University of Potchefstroom
  • Honorary DPhil, University of Stellenbosch
  • Decoration for Meritorious Service, State President of SA
  • Honorary LLD, Bar-Ilan University
  • Honorary DPhil, National University

See Also

Suggested use: Print a copy of this free research checklist, and keep track of the De Klerk genealogy resources that you visit. If your web browser does not print the date on the bottom, remember to record it manually. Today is 21/Jun/2021.

To keep track of the latest transcriptions published by Genealogy Today, please follow Illya D'Addezio on Facebook, @illyadaddezio on Twitter, or +IllyaDAddezio on Google+.

Copyright © 1998-2021 Genealogy Today LLC. All Rights Reserved.

If you host the De Klerk blog or web page, please link to this surname-focused resource. Here's the HTML code for a basic link. Simply cut/paste this code on to your page.

Person of the Year: A Photo History


F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela joined Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin as the 1993 Men of the Year

Mandela and De Klerk were international symbols of apartheid. As a leader of the African National Congress and a participant in the struggle to overthrow apartheid, Mandela spent more than 25 years as a political prisoner. When De Klerk assumed the presidency of South Africa in September 1989, he began to change the system of apartheid and abolish discriminatory laws. On February 11, 1990, De Klerk released Mandela from prison.

Four years later, South Africa held its first democratic elections and Mandela was the overwhelming winner. "The exact nature of what Mandela and De Klerk together have achieved may not be clear for many years," TIME wrote. "The nation they share has an explosive history of racial, ethnic and tribal violence. If the chain of events they have set in motion leads to the conclusion they both want, then the future will write of them, that these were leaders who seized their days and actually dared to lead." (1/3/94)

The Death Toll of Apartheid

Verifiable statistics on the human cost of apartheid are scarce and estimates vary. However, in his often-cited book A Crime Against Humanity, Max Coleman of the Human Rights Committee places the number of deaths due to political violence during the apartheid era as high as 21,000. Almost exclusively Black deaths, most occurred during especially notorious bloodbaths, such as the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 and the Soweto Student Uprising of 1976-1977.