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Release: Feb. 6, 2002

Former South African President F.W. de Klerk lectures at UI

(Editor's note: A press conference for de Klerk will be held on Feb. 14, with the time and location to be announced later.)

Former South African President F.W. de Klerk, who is credited with dismantling apartheid and who freed then African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela from prison, will offer a free and public lecture at the University of Iowa Thursday, Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the Main Ballroom of the Iowa Memorial Union. De Klerk's lecture is made possible by the UI Lecture Committee.

Frederik Willem de Klerk, the politician, was not known as a supporter of racial reforms. As minister of National Education, he supported segregated universities, but his actions in calling for a non-racist South Africa and his lifting of a ban against his National Party rival the ANC marked a turning point in that country's political history. For his efforts he was awarded the1993 Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with Mandela.

De Klerk was elected leader of the National Party in February 1989 and in September was elected State President. Many historians credit him with helping open the way for a new democratic constitution. An overwhelming majority in the South African Constitutional Assembly adopted a permanent antiapartheid constitution in 1996 but that document was rejected by the supreme court there, which said the constitution didn't live up "to earlier political agreements." The country now operates under a permanent constitution.

Amid controversy, de Klerk removed the white-led National Party in 1996 from the ANC-led South African government, fracturing the ideal of a one-nation South Africa. Explaining his decision he said, "Yesterday was correctly described as the final moment of the birth of a nation. That nation needs a sound, strong multi-party system, and our vision and mission clearly states that it is fundamentally necessary that such a political movement develop which can ensure that we don't drift into a one-party state."

Now 64, de Klerk earned a law degree from Potchefstroom University in 1958 and has held various ministerial posts in South Africa beginning in 1978 as Minster of Posts and Telecommunications and Social Welfare and Pensions, and National Education and Planning from 1984-1989.

Established in his name, the F.W. de Klerk Foundation is dedicated to working for peace throughout South Africa and the world.