FW de Klerk, South Africa’s last apartheid president who oversaw the end of white-minority rule, died on Thursday morning at his home in Cape Town.
He was diagnosed with mesothelioma in March earlier this year, a cancer that affects the tissue lining the lungs.
His passing was confirmed in a statement from the FW de Klerk Foundation.
The former president was head of state from 1989-1994, until Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress party swept to power.
His government dismantled the apartheid system of institutionalised racial segregation and introduced voting rights for black people.
He is considered a key figure in the nation’s transition to democracy, as he released Nelson Mandela from his 27-year imprisonment in 1990 and launched the country’s first multi-party polls.
He also shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 with Mandela for leading the “miracle” transition from white minority rule in the country.
Following his election defeat, he became one of two deputy presidents working under Mandela.
However, he has also been criticised for failing to reduce violence towards black South Africans during his time in power, and for not cracking down on right-wing security forces instigation violence.
FW de Klerk retired from active politics in 1997 and later apologised for the consequences of apartheid.
He is survived by his wife Elita, his children Jan and Susan, and his grandchildren.