FW de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president, died on Thursday at the age of 85, according to his foundation.
De Klerk and South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their roles in the country’s “miracle” transition away from white dominance.
His charity said in a statement that he died after a fight with cancer.
On March 18, this year, De Klerk announced his diagnosis on his 85th birthday.
“It is with the deepest sadness that the FW de Klerk Foundation must announce that former president FW de Klerk died peacefully at his home in Fresnaye earlier this morning following his struggle against mesothelioma cancer,” it said.
He is survived by his wife Elita, children Jan and Susan, and grandchildren.
“The family will, in due course, make an announcement regarding funeral arrangements,” it added.
He is well known for his iconic address on February 2, 1990, in which he announced the lifting of a ban on the African National Congress (ANC) and allied liberation organisations.
In the same speech, he ordered Mandela’s release from prison after 27 years behind bars.
His father was a powerful apartheid senator who served briefly as interim president, and he was born in the commercial capital of Johannesburg into a family of Afrikaners, a white ethnic minority descending primarily from Dutch colonisers.
He studied law before being elected to parliament as a member of the National Party, which was responsible for the establishment of apartheid.
De Klerk held numerous cabinet roles before becoming president in 1989, a position he held until handing over the reins to Mandela during the first democratic elections in 1994.