02/02 – De Klerk’s Address

F.W. de Klerk (L) shakes hands with ANC leader Nelson Mandela (R) in 1992. (World Economic Forum)

On this day in 1990, South African president Frederik Willem de Klerk addressed the parliament on its opening day. In his landmark speech, de Klerk announced plans to un-ban the African National Congress (ANC) – the primary opposition party – and begin a gradual transition to becoming a constitutional democracy. Additionally, de Klerk announced plans to ban the death penalty and release Nelson Mandela from prison. The latter had been imprisoned for 18 years on Robben island for his anti-government activities. Decades of political pressure, both internal and external, had forced the government’s hand and within the next few years, apartheid – the policy of racial segregation on which South Africa had been built – came to an end.

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