Former South Africa President FW de Klerk dies aged 85

South Africa’s last white president, Frederik Willem (FW) de Klerk, died on Thursday leaving a final apology via video for crimes against other ethnic groups during decades of apartheid.

“I, without qualification, apologise for the pain and the hurt and the indignity and the damage that apartheid has done to Black, Brown and Indians in South Africa,” said de Klerk, who had previously expressed regret several times for the 1948-91 policy.

De Klerk died aged 85 after a battle with cancer.

He won praise worldwide for his role in scrapping apartheid and shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela in 1993. The following year Mandela won South Africa’s first multi-racial elections with his African National Congress (ANC).

“Allow me in this last message to share with you the fact that since the early 80s, my views changed completely. It was as if I had a conversion,” de Klerk said in the video message released by his foundation hours after his death.

“And in my heart of hearts, I realized that apartheid was wrong. I realized that we had arrived at a place which was morally unjustifiable,” he said, adding that action was then taken to negotiate and restore justice.

It was not immediately clear when the recording was made.

In the video, De Klerk also cautioned that South Africa faced many serious challenges, including what he called an undermining of the constitution.

President Cyril Ramaphosa paid tribute to de Klerk’s role in South Africa’s transition to democracy.

“He took the courageous decision (as president) to unban political parties, release political prisoners and enter into negotiations with the liberation movement amid severe pressure to the contrary from many in his political constituency,” he said.

Mandela’s foundation said de Klerk would “forever be linked to Nelson Mandela in the annals of South African history”.

However, de Klerk’s role in the transition from minority white rule remains controversial.