JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday declared four days of national mourning for South Africa’s last white President FW de Klerk, who died on Thursday at his home in Cape Town after battling cancer.
De Klerk, who is credited with overseeing the peaceful transition from white-minority rule in South Africa to a Black-majority government led by Nelson Mandela, died on Thursday at the age of 85.
After South Africa’s first all-race vote in 1994, he served as a deputy president in a “government of national unity”.
“President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared that the National Flag be flown at half-mast as a mark of respect for the late former Deputy President FW de Klerk,” a statement from the President’s office said.
The four days of mourning would start at sunset on Nov. 17, it said.
Though, globally he has won praise as a key figure in the ending of apartheid, at home de Klerk’s legacy remains controversial.
Many Blacks were angered by his actions during apartheid and his failure to curb political violence in the turbulent years leading up to the 1994 election. Right-wing white Afrikaners, who had long ruled the country under de Klerk’s National Party, viewed him as a traitor to their causes of white supremacy and nationalism.
There was widespread speculation about whether he would be given a state funeral, which could have led to protests, but the De Klerk Foundation said on Sunday that his funeral would take place on Nov. 21 in a private ceremony.
“Government will at a future date host a State Memorial Service in remembrance of the former Deputy President,” the statement from the Presidency said.
The government has consulted the De Klerk family and the FW de Klerk Foundation as part of the preparations for this event, in which government leaders, leaders of political parties and representatives of civil society would participate, it added.
(Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; Editing by Alex Richardson)