On Tuesday 17th September, the History Society had the privilege of hosting the former president of South Africa, one of the architects of its transition from white-minority rule and an advocate of the end of apartheid.

Mr de Klerk started the talk by giving a brief history of South Africa, mentioning the Anglo-Zulu and the Boer Wars, as well as the early informal segregation that began under British and Dutch colonial rule. He spoke about his early years and the anti-British sentiment that was prevalent in South Africa at the time. The subject focus then shifted to apartheid itself, and how increased segregation developed as a result of fear. Fear of a possible communist takeover, and fear amongst the white population of ill-treatment if power and political access was more equally shared. Mr de Klerk suggested that the changing nature of international affairs in the late 1980s provided an impetus and an opportunity for change: the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the end of the armed conflict in Angola and the mounting international pressure on South Africa, all of these contributed to the decision to end apartheid.

Mr de Klerk described his address to the parliament in 1992, where he outlined the goal of a more inclusive constitution, as “crossing the Rubicon”. He also acknowledged the terrible violence that accompanied the transition out of apartheid, particularly the 23,000 South Africans who fell victim to it.

We are very grateful for Mr de Klerk's eloquence, honesty and time. It was a privilege to hear him speak.

Daniil Filatov KS