In 1993, F.W. de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela for their work against apartheid and laying a foundation for democracy in South Africa. Photo by World Economic Forum/Creative Commons
Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Frederik Willem de Klerk, the final South African president to rule during the country's brutal apartheid system and the man who took the first steps to end that system, has died at the age of 85, his foundation announced Thursday.
De Klerk, who commonly went by his initials, F.W., died at his home in the Fresnaye area of Cape Town.
"It is with the deepest sadness that [we] must announce that former President F.W. de Klerk died peacefully at his home in Fresnaye earlier this morning following his struggle against mesothelioma cancer," the F.W. de Klerk Foundation said in a statement on its website.
"He is survived by his wife Elita, his children Jan and Susan and his grandchildren."
The foundation said de Klerk's family would soon announce funeral arrangements.
De Klerk was president of South Africa between 1989 and 1994 and was the country's final ruler during the decades-long racist and White minority rule era known as apartheid.
In 1990, de Klerk announced in an address to South Africa's Parliament that Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist and revolutionary, would be released from prison after nearly 30 years. It was also de Klerk who took steps to lift the government ban on opposition groups like the African National Congress.
In 1993, de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela for their work against apartheid and laying a foundation for democracy in South Africa.
He entered the political arena as a conservative politician who initially defended the separation of races. Later, recognizing the possibility of civil war in South Africa, he initiated broad reforms and plans for a new constitution once he took up the presidency.
Mandela succeeded de Klerk as president of South Africa in 1994 after Black citizens were allowed to vote for the first time. Mandela died in 2013.
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December 31. She was 99 years old. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo