Some may say that F.W. de Klerk was one of the forerunners in introducing anti-apartheid legislation. As president of South Africa, he helped accommodate the ending of apartheid and also the start of a democracy that included all races. F.W. de Klerk headlined South African efforts to end apartheid and greatly impacted the lives of all South Africans while doing so.
Overall, the attitude in South Africa was negative, depending on what your ethnicity was. Many protests were occurring. “Beginning in 1894, a young Indian Lawyer named Mohandas K. Gandhi led a series of nonviolent protests against white rule.”(Canesso 56). Often these protests were nonviolent, but they became increasingly violent the longer that apartheid went on. In some cases, the violence was, in fact, justified. Such actions as racial classification was in effect: “The population registration passed in 1950 set down guidelines for determining race. Each South African must be classified by race, a policy that has sometimes resulted in families being divided along ‘racial’ lines.”(Canesso 67). The fact that people were required to register by race and move into separate areas based on what race they were classified as began to enrage many native people, and also people of other races. This led to more riots. These people felt they only had a type of second class citizenship. Apartheid legislation also affected South Africa’s international relations: “Most other countries in the work felt that South Africa was simply trying to get rid of its Africans by eliminating their territory from the country.
Unfortunately, F.W. de Klerk’s own nationalist party was actually the party that originally created most Apartheid legislation and, in fact, almost single-handedly created the concept of apartheid. They held control of the government from 1948-1994. Beginning in 1948, they began implementing their policies of apartheid. Earlier in the 1900’s, the nationalist were known as an ultra-conservative party but during F.W. de Klerk’s time they had moved on to a more liberal or moderate stance and became known as the New Nationalist party. The renaming was mainly an effort to get away from the party’s dirty past. (Marketline)
F.W. de Klerk was the first leader of the New Nationalist Party and essentially helped to change the “Nationalist” party’s image. Eventually the NNC merged with the African National Congress beginning with the first multi-racial elections
F.W. de Klerk, born on March 18, 1936, was 12 when the nationalist party came to power in 1948 (Vale). De Klerk went to Monument High School in Krugersdorp. This school was considered to be one of the most acclaimed schools in South Africa. De Klerk continued his education at Potchefstroom University for Higher Christian Education. He studied law there, and intended to get started in politics like most of his relatives. He was highly involved in politics while at Potchefstroom University. De Klerk graduated cum laude in 1958. Almost directly after Potchefstroom he entered a firm of English-speaking lawyers. His English was extremely poor at the time and this was an attempt to become more fluent in the language. He was married in 1959 to Marike Willemse. Together, they had 3 children.
It can be said that F.W. de Klerk’s upbringing had a very large effect on where he would end up in politics and also his policies once he became president. Many of his relatives were large in politics. His great grandfather was a senator in the Union Parliament and was a member of the Nationalist Party. De Klerk’s father Jan was a cabinet minister. He later was president of the Senate. It is also pointed out that “de Klerk was among the first generation of white Afrikaners to grow to maturity with apartheid and Afrikaner supremacy part of the political furniture. Botha’s Generation had done the fighting; de Klerk’s enjoyed the spoils” (Vale). And spoils were had, as de Klerk’s family was maybe one of the wealthiest in all of South Africa at the time. The importance of religion in F.W. de Klerk’s life can also be argued. F.W. de Klerk’s brother said that “Our church’s central theme of stability, order, authority, and freedom is very much a part of our heritage” (Vale). De Klerk’s brother was a minister in the Afrikaner Reformer Church that the family attended.
It is pretty clear what F.W. de Klerk fought for, but what did he believe? It is obvious that he did not believe in the old Nationalist ways and apartheid. He made it clear with his anti-apartheid policies and the release of Nelson Mandela that he would not accept the old South African way of life and wanted to help move South Africa forward culturally. It was said that “De Klerk was a late blooming reformer” and also “De Klerk is younger-minded, more in the pragmatic mold than the ideological generation of Afrikaner politicians” (Stengel). His intent was to reshape the leading Nationalist Party, and by doing so, reshape the framework of South African politics and policies.
There are probably a multitude of reasons that F.W de Klerk believed what he did and then put it into practice. One of the main reasons was his family and his upbringing in the church. The many politicians in his family introduced him into the world of politics. He almost did not have another choice when it came to what his profession would be. He was bound to become a politician from the start. The main thing that influenced his policies was his activity in his church and the fact that he saw the effect that apartheid policies had when he was a child. His church’s official policy on Apartheid changed with the Nationalist party, so F.W. de Klerk’s policies in turn changed the policies of his church.
The methods that F.W. de Klerk used to end Apartheid varied in scope and effectiveness. Two of his main acts as President showed just the direction he would take: ending the ban on the African National Congress and releasing Nelson Mandela from prison. A senior western diplomat said, “The most important thing about de Klerk is that he is a civilian. He believes in civilian control and getting away from the Junta (old military) way of doing things” (Stengel). He quickly worked to end apartheid and opened the way for a new, democratic constitution to be established. This constitution resulted in the first democratic elections in South African history in 1994.
The impact that had on all the people of South Africa is surely one of the most positive impacts a nationalist president had in all of South Africa’s history. By providing democratic elections, he united the whole country together on a platform of one person, one vote. The riots essentially stopped, and the return of Nelson Mandela brought peace to the native population of South Africa.
While de Klerk may have been a member of the conservative Nationalist party, he took the party in a new direction and helped end apartheid, while also cooling attitudes throughout the country. He also released Nelson Mandela from prison, further soothing tensions. F.W de Klerk headlined South African efforts to end apartheid and greatly impacted the lives of all South Africans while doing so.