The former President of South Africa, who was also the country’s last white president, Frederik Willem de Klerk, died at the age of 85.
According to a statement from his foundation, “Former President FW de Klerk died peacefully at his home in Fresnaye earlier this morning following his struggle against mesothelioma cancer.”
It was reported that he was diagnosed in March with the disease, which affects the tissue lining the lungs.
Mr de Klerk was in charge of the end of South Africa’s white minority rule as the country’s last apartheid president.
While he was head of state from 1989 and 1994, he and his government dismantled the apartheid system of institutionalised racial segregation and introduced voting rights for black people.
In 1990 he announced he was releasing anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela from prison after 27 years, in a speech that made history.
After multi-party elections were held in 1994, Mr. Mandela won the presidency and Mr de Klerk became one of two deputy presidents.
Many blamed Mr de Klerk for violence against black people and anti-apartheid campaigners during his reign, while some white people accused him of betraying them in his efforts to end apartheid.
“He is survived by his wife Elita, his children Jan and Susan and his grandchildren,” the foundation stated, noting that the family would in due course make an announcement regarding funeral arrangements.