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Foundation of FW de Klerk denies reports on his health

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The foundation of FW de Klerk, South Africa’s last apartheid president and a Nobel laureate, denied media reports Tuesday that his health was “rapidly deteriorating” after he was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

De Klerk announced on his 85th birthday in March that he was suffering from mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the tissue that lines the lungs.

Reports in South Africa said de Klerk had been hospitalized after his condition worsened but the FW de Klerk Foundation responded by saying there had been “no discernible deterioration in his health since he was diagnosed in March.”

“There have been extensive media reports that Mr. de Klerk’s health ‘is rapidly deteriorating.’ This is not so,” the foundation said.

“He is now considering the continuation of the course of immunotherapy that he has been following for the past two months.”

It added de Klerk had attended a meeting of his foundation board on Monday and still works at his offices three or four times a week.

“He and his wife, Elita, hope to travel to Greece for a holiday as soon as COVID regulations permit,” the foundation said.

De Klerk was the last president of the country’s white-minority government, which imposed the apartheid policy of racial segregation in South Africa. He was president from 1989-1994 and a central figure in the country’s eventual move to democracy.

In 1990, he announced that Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid leaders would be released from prison and anti-apartheid movements like Mandela’s African National Congress would be unbanned.

Mandela was later elected South Africa’s first Black president in all-race elections in 1994. De Klerk served as one of his deputy presidents from 1994-96.

In 1993, de Klerk and Mandela were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their role in ending apartheid.

But de Klerk has remained a divisive figure in South Africa, with many believing he never properly took responsibility for the atrocities of apartheid.

Last year, a meeting of the South African parliament for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address was disrupted when opposition politicians protested de Klerk’s presence in the room.

It followed comments de Klerk had made in a newspaper that apartheid was not a crime against humanity, despite a declaration that it was by the United Nations. He later backtracked on this statement.

Mogomotsi Magome, The Associated Press