De Klerk Says 1990 Release Of Mandela Was `Moment Of Truth' For S. Africa

April 23, 1997|By Stacey Patton | Stacey Patton,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

F. W. de Klerk, former president of South Africa, said last night that he took the "right turn" when he eliminated apartheid and freed Nelson Mandela from prison seven years ago.

"I would hope that history will recognize that I, together with all those that supported me, have shown courage, integrity and honesty at the moment of truth in our history, that we took the right turn," de Klerk told a packed audience at the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus. His appearance was part of the university's Woodrow Wilson International Symposium series.

Then-president de Klerk shocked his country when he announced Feb. 2, 1990, that he would fundamentally change South Africa by eliminating the government's policy of rigid racial segregation and economic discrimination, and release Nelson Mandela from prison.

De Klerk, who is the leader of the opposition National Party, served as one of two executive deputy presidents in South Africa's new government of national unity under President Mandela.

To create a new South Africa where citizens would enjoy economic and technological resources and where racial tensions would be eased, de Klerk said he realized the problems that his country faced needed to be solved through negotiation.

"There was no single recipe for achieving peace. There was no simplistic journey," he said.

"We have all come to accept that there must be one South Africa, one country, one single constitution," said De Klerk, who shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela.

Pub Date: 4/23/97

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