Twenty years after Nelson Mandela tasted freedom, South Africa’s last apartheid-era leader says ending white-only rule saved the nation from catastrophe.
FW de Klerk was marking the 20th anniversary of the address he made to parliament announcing Mandela’s release after 27 years behind bars.
“There were many events that opened the way to that speech which we delivered on the 2nd of February 1990,” de Klerk told a conference in Cape Town, held to mark his historic address. “However, the nine days betwen it and the release of Mr Nelson Mandela on 11th February changed South Africa forever.”
The end of apartheid was marked by de Klerk’s speech on February 2, 1990 when he declared:
“I wish to put it plainly that the government has taken a firm decision to release Mr Mandela unconditionally.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and fellow human rights campaigners around the world were delighted that a new era had begun.
Four years after Mandela’s release, the anti-apartheid icon himself was elected South Africa’s leader – the first black president in the country’s history.