Uniting South Africa was Mandela's greatest accomplishment: de Klerk

Thu Dec 5, 2013 6:40pm EST
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nelson Mandela's greatest accomplishment was to unify South Africa and push for reconciliation between blacks and whites in the post-apartheid era, F.W. de Klerk, the country's last white president, said on Thursday.

"He was a great unifier and a very, very special man in this regard beyond everything else he did. This emphasis on reconciliation was his biggest legacy," de Klerk said in an interview with CNN after the announcement of Mandela's death.

De Klerk, who released Mandela from prison in 1990 and then negotiated the end of apartheid, called Mandela a "humane" and "compassionate" man who was able to understand the fears of South Africa's white minority in the transition to democracy.

Mandela and de Klerk shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for ending minority white rule and laying the foundations of democracy. De Klerk served as one of two deputy presidents in Mandela's government after the African National Congress won the 1994 elections.

(Reporting by Paul Simao; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Nelson Mandela waves from the stage with British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) and South African High Commissioner Cheryl Carolus at Trafalgar Square during the South African democracy concert, in this April 29, 2001 file photo. REUTERS/Files