... belatedly and still a little reluctantly, for F W de Klerk whose key role in the transformation of South Africa from an apartheid state to a multi-racial democracy has been overlooked in the events marking the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from a long imprisonment. De Klerk was elected to the South African Parliament for the National party in 1972 and held ministerial posts under the architects of apartheid, B J Vorster and P W Botha, before becoming party leader in 1989.

He won an election on a platform of gradual reform of apartheid; in 1990 he lifted the ban on the African National Congress and ordered the release of Mandela; in 1991 he abolished the apartheid laws and in 1993 secured parliamentary approval for a multiracial constitution. When Mandela and the African National Congress won the 1994 election de Klerk stood down from the presidency.

F W de Klerk recognised that an apartheid government could not resist internal and external pressures for change in South Africa, which he implemented speedily. He and Nelson Mandela shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.